The employees of AlaTrade now effectively own the company where they work. A growth from the culture Davis Lee created, his decision to create an ESOP – employee stock ownership plan – makes AlaTrade (which provides jobs for about 1,800 people) one of largest employee-owned companies based in Alabama.
An ESOP involves the creation of a trust where employees’ accounts accumulate shares of the company at no cost to them. The shares can increase in value as the company grows over time. In essence, Lee created an AlaTrade-funded retirement plan that allows eligible employees the opportunity to share in the company’s success.
Today, AlaTrade employee-owners process more than 400 million pounds of chicken annually. Along with deboning, they produce marinated and non-marinated products for the foodservice industry nationwide.
“We talk a lot about our culture here at AlaTrade” says John Pittard, company president. “Our people and our customers come first, and it all works as long as you can follow Davis’s 11th commandment – ‘Thou shalt make a profit!’”
With that culture, AlaTrade has long offered employees BlueCross/BlueShield health insurance, dental and vision insurance, life insurance, incentives, bonuses and other benefits. The ESOP – along with a new rewards program – further enhances the benefit package for current associates and offers those seeking employment options that they can’t readily find elsewhere.
Alatrade CFO Andrea Elrod is big fan of the company’s culture. “Davis built a family at AlaTrade,” she says. “Now he has created a home. The ESOP is meant to reward people who stay a long time with the company. The employee ownership is so exciting. My expectation is that all of our employees will have meaningful account balances for retirement in a 10- to 15-year time frame.”