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Montana-based engineering firm Morrison Maierle is officially a 100 percent employee-owned company.

Family and employee ownership has been part of the Morrison Maierle mission since its inception, Jona Parriman, financial manager and granddaughter of founder Joe Maierle, said.

The employee stock ownership plan is expected to foster company growth and reward employees for working hard and staying at Morrison Maierle.

“We’ve always been an employee-owned company,” Parriman said. “If you own something, you do your best to take care of it and make it better.”

John Morrison and Joe Maierle started the firm in 1945 out of Morrison’s home. They now work on a broad range of projects including sustainable construction, development, mining, natural resources and transportation. The company employs almost 300 engineers, surveyors, planners and scientists in six offices in Montana, four in Wyoming and one office in both Washington and Arizona. 

“Over the years they allowed other people to come in as individuals to become owners. Then in 1994, that’s when the two of them began to retire,” President Scott Murphy said. “They chose a stock ownership model to implement at that time.”

At the end of the recession, the company’s leadership created strategic goals they wanted to achieve by 2020. Full employee ownership was one of those goals.

“We wanted everyone to be on equal footing and everyone here who walks in the door to feel like they’re an owner as much as anyone else,” he said. “There’s a different attitude when you come to work and you know I’m an owner.”

The company founders and other outside owners sold their stake back to the company. Now the stocks are allocated to employees each year based on their annual income. An employee is eligible to acquire stock a year after working at the firm and will have full ownership of their shares after six years. Once they leave or retire, they are paid for 100 percent of their shares. If an employee leaves before six years, they are paid a portion of their shares.

Murphy said the model is beneficial to both the firm and its employers. Since employees have an investment in protecting the business and continuing growth, they will likely perform better. In turn, the company sees growth and has employees dedicated to satisfying clients.

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According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, a company grows 2 to 3 percent faster once it becomes employee owned. Employees who own stock in their company are likely to retire with three times the assets of comparable employees.

Employees took full ownership on Jan. 1, shortly after the firm announced President Bob Morrison would step down and Murphy would take over.

Murphy is the new president and CEO of Morrison Maierle, but he’s worked at the firm since 1998. He started working as a civil engineer specializing in waste water treatment projects, and was a vice president before taking over as CEO.

In addition to becoming 100 percent employee owned, Morrison Maierle altered their board of directors by bringing on two outside people for fresh ideas.

“We decided we would do a better job and be more accountable if we brought in a couple of outside people to be part of the decision making process,” Murphy said.

After recently acquiring three firms, Morrison Maierle is planning to hire 10 structural, mechanic and electrical engineers in the next year. 

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