CARTHAGE — CEM Machine Inc. announced to its employees Thursday morning that the privately held manufacturer has been bought out and will become 100 percent employee-owned.
President Mark D. Robinson, who has been an owner of CEM since 2000, gathered about 30 of the company’s 55 total employees outside the West End Avenue facility — in order to accommodate social distancing requirements — to inform them that they now each have an ownership interest in the company that makes industrial wood chipping machines.
He recounted how CEM had restarted a machine shop that had been idled for two years with plans to have as many as 40 employees. At the time of the restart, the company had 10 employees, several of whom were in attendance Thursday, still working for CEM.
Mr. Robinson talked about how he and his wife mortgaged their home and went to multiple economic agencies to fund the company’s startup, many of whom initially were reluctant to loan to a new manufacturer before eventually opting to help the business.
“We got funds from everyone, because everyone knows no one wants to invest in manufacturing in New York. We know that doesn’t work, right?” he said of the moment 21 years ago.
“It was an uphill battle trying to get a manufacturing facility going in New York state,” he said. “Yet we were successful for two reasons: A lot of hard work and persistence, and the real reason was the people.”
The company will transition to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan company in which a trust fund, overseen by a trustee, will be set up for employees. The company will contribute shares of its stock to employees, with employees paying no taxes on the contributions until they leave or retire. At the point an employee leaves, the company will buy back the employee’s share.
In addition to the trustee, the company will be governed by a board of trustees. Current employee Richard F. Barlow, a Norwood-Norfolk Central School District and Clarkson University graduate, will become president and chief executive officer.
“He has the ability to take this company into the next quarter century,” Mr. Robinson told CEM employees. Mr. Robinson will remain as the company’s chairman of the board and chief products officer.
Mr. Barlow told employees that they will now have a key role in the company’s future success.
“I’m asking each and every one of you to behave like an owner,” he said.
The company has several projects in the pipeline and is currently finishing a 65,000 pound industrial wood chipper that will be sent to India either later this month or early November. Mr. Robinson said the company’s chippers are currently found on six continents.