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Workers now own all stock in SEL

Tue., March 31, 2009

His name is on the stationery, but Ed Schweitzer is now just one of 1,400 owners of the company he founded 25 years ago in Pullman.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. this month became 100 percent employee-owned.

Schweitzer said Monday SEL began distributing stock to employees 15 years ago.

“I really wanted the employees to take ownership – literally – in what we do,” he said. “It’s worked out really, really well.”

SEL makes equipment that monitors, controls and protects electrical transmission and distribution grids. Besides its 1,400 employees in the U.S., most of them in Pullman, the company has 500 overseas workers. SEL sells its products in 126 countries.

Schweitzer, 61, will remain president and chief executive officer of the company.

He would not disclose revenues but said SEL has been profitable every year. The value of its stock, as determined by a third-party specialist in employee stock ownership programs, has increased “exponentially” in comparison with the Standard & Poor’s Index, he said.

Stock is distributed according to salary, he said. The company buys stock equal to about 15 percent of wages or salary. The stock is held in trust, and employee shares are repurchased when they leave.

Only U.S. law allows ESOPs, Schweitzer said SEL continues to look for ways to give employees outside the country another way to take ownership, which is one of the company’s nine “values,” a list that also includes customer focus, integrity, creativity and dignity of work.

Schweitzer said a companywide lunch is held every Friday to introduce new employees, new products and equipment, and other news about the company.

“It keeps us all together,” he said. “I’m now a part of the ESOP, which makes me the same as everybody else.”



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