Companies wishing to expand their community involvement could learn some best practices from Caster Concepts.
The company, based in Albion, Michigan, builds industrial, heavy-duty casters and wheels. It was recently recognized for its outstanding work in this area winning Michigan’s 2022 Corporate Impact Award.
“The award emphasizes the importance of corporate responsibility to the community that they reside in,” said Bill Dobbins, president of Caster Concepts. “At Caster Concepts we take that responsibility seriously as does the leadership team. The award is very special to me as it does not focus on philanthropy. While philanthropy (writing a check) is very important, many times leveraging funding with volunteer work is the key to impactful projects within a community.
“This Corporate Impact Award focuses on the effort of volunteers, supported by corporate sponsorship to make a lasting impact in and around our communities. This would not be possible without all the work that my family has put into running nonprofits, event management, supporting business and in general working as ‘We Build a Better Albion.’ Reflecting on the work that goes into the Albion community, I am very proud.”
Over the past five years, Caster Concepts has partnered to relocate and open seven small businesses, including the town’s first local bakery in decades and the only independent market for miles. It also invests in the construction of new housing and redevelopment of older homes and apartments, attracting new residents and improving property values.
“We really see our community investments as a means of increasing the quality of life for our employees and their families,” says Dobbins. “We aspire to be a vibrant community, one of those places where you want to be on a Saturday afternoon.” part of that community town feeling is reflected in the company's involvement with Pure Albion, which supports new businesses that open downtown.
Education is also an important part of the company’s community investments. In 2019, Caster Concepts launched INNOVATE Albion, a tech-education nonprofit that is building an engineering and technology pipeline for Michigan businesses. The company purchased and renovated a 100-year-old, three-story Masonic temple to house the program that educates area students from grades K through 12 and prepares them for careers in technology.
“Our goal is to develop a talent pipeline,” said Caroline Hurteau, special projects manager at Caster Concepts and executive director of INNOVATE Albion. “We believe for that to happen successfully programs and opportunities need to be offered as early as kindergarten.”
The arts are also part of the mix. Swingin’ at the Shell is a Caster Cares initiative that brings quality live music to greater Albion “We’ve taken the same approach used by music, dance, theater and sports programs. The younger you train children in a skill, the better chance they have at excelling in it,” said Hurteau.
Fitness finds a place as well with the creation of Run Albion, a series of 5K races that promotes the history of the town with proceeds being donated to deserving nonprofits.
In addition to supporting the community overall, the company supports employees in a variety of ways. “We feel very strongly about providing a secure job at a time when people might be struggling with house payments or putting food on the table, that’s the greatest service I think we can provide,” said Dobbins. As a society, we tend to punish bad behavior, so we decided to celebrate employees who show a commitment to their job by having perfect attendance showing up on time and being consistent and reliable. Helping them cover the increased cost of coming to work is our way of saying thank you while helping to fill a hole in their budgets.”
For example, this year the company distributed more than $40,000 in gas cards to employees to assist in covering the rising cost of fuel.
They buy blocks of tickets at the town’s only movie theater and give them to its employees and their families. They distribute $50 book vouchers to the local bookstore. To encourage healthy habits, it buys produce from local farmers and hosts an employee-only farmers market where all the produce is free.
And just as their staff received, they gave. Caster Concepts employees volunteered to restore parks, the local post office, and even city hall.
“These are all part of Caster Concepts’ purpose to manufacture greatness within our employees to positively impact their families, communities and customers,” said Dobbins, who follows the conscious-capitalism approach to social impact. “We feel strongly that capitalism —when practiced in a conscious way — will serve all stakeholders.”