By

National Association of Manufacturers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 83 percent of manufacturing employees have access to a retirement plan compared to 63 percent of workers among other private-sector industries. Even more, BLS also cites that 93 percent of manufacturers have access to health care, compared to only 70 percent of workers in private industry. With statistics like these, there is no doubt that manufacturers are leaders when it comes to providing employee benefits.

Take for example, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), a Washington-based manufacturer of electric power and control devices. This month’s NAM MemberFocus magazine highlights how SEL is pioneering health care for its employees as a self-insured company with an on-site health care facility. Yet, health care is not the only area where this manufacturer shines in terms of employee benefits.

SEL Founder and President Ed Schweitzer set up an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 1994, selling 30 percent of SEL to the ESOP. Over time, Schweitzer sold the remaining stake, making SEL 100 percent employee-owned. ESOPs are tax qualified defined contribution plans required to be primarily invested in employer securities. ESOPs provide employees with a stake in the financial future of the company they work for, which can increase the company’s productivity and growth, while also providing employees with more opportunity for a secure retirement. That rings true for SEL: “Due to the success of our ESOP, we’ve had employee owners able to retire early in their 50s,” said SEL Vice President of Finance Joey Nestegard. According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, approximately 22% of ESOPs are manufacturing companies.

The NAM has long supported policies that allow companies to create and maintain ESOPs, and will work to make sure manufacturers have all the tools and flexibility they need to provide robust employee benefits necessary for attracting and retaining top-notch talent.