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FTZC is Mobile’s Best Company to Work For in the 2019 Nappie Awards. Pictured (L-R) Craig Pool (president and co-founder), Greg Jones (vice president and cofounder) and Joshua Guy (vice president of software solutions).
Best local company to work for: FTZC
Foreign-Trade Zone Corporation (FTZC) has been voted as Lagniappe’s “Best Local Company to Work For” for the fourth year running in Mobile County. The 25-year-old, niche market, family-owned business employs 16 locally, 20 overall, and is enjoying nearly a half decade of dominance in the category.
For readers oblivious to what they do, FTZC facilitates domestic companies in avoiding international tariffs when importing supplies from overseas to produce American goods or services.
In Alabama, the Mercedes manufacturing plant in Montgomery is an example of a domestically built, foreign-based company eligible for the federal credit. SmartZone, their proprietary “Software as a Service” product, is its fastest-growing division. Consulting and contract operations comprise the rest of the work for clients in 48 states.
FTZC’s efforts have become worthy of water-cooler conversation in the age of Trump. Recent Twitter fusillades by the president threatening tariffs on Mexico is an example. “If he says a tariff is going to go into place in 10 days, we’ve got to have our software upgraded, modified, tested and ready to go by then, even if it’s a false alarm,” said Craig Pool, the president and co-founder of FTZC.
Reigning champion, FTZC could be seen as an underdog on paper. This year they were the smallest employer, competing in the category against the likes of companies such as Mobile Area Water & Sewer System, Greene & Phillips Injury Lawyers, Crow Shields Bailey PC; Rihner, Gupta & Grosz Cardiology and Express Employment Professionals.
Ninety-five percent of their clients (and potential voters) are out of state, with little concept of the significance of earning the coveted purple Lagniappe banner every year. FTZC doesn’t dive deep into social media. They have no presence on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. For a software development company, they are surprisingly low-tech in terms of marketing and self-promotion.
What they do seem to have, however, are rabidly loyal employees. “Every year I find out that we’ve been nominated by someone connected to our company,” Pool said. “We’ve never asked anyone to put us up for the award every year. That said, we’re in it to win it.”
Finding the common thread that has created a small juggernaut in the category can also be traced to the usual routes.
FTZC offers great health benefits, pays above-market rates for jobs, has a 401(k) usually found at larger firms and provides performance-based quarterly pay raises. Vacation and paid time off (PTO) days are generous and holiday events are family affairs involving expensive gifts, bought by the company, and distributed out during “Dirty Santa” parties.
Pool has heard the argument that heavy spending on human capital gouges too much out of the bottom line. He believes the opposite.
“It’s important to realize that you’re dealing with human beings. Investing in them is going to have payback,” he said. “You can’t have the philosophy of paying more reduces my bottom line. People are your most important asset.”
An introvert by nature, he went on to say that authenticity is important. Not a company cheerleader, the results of his philosophy are probably most evidenced by winning an award never lobbied for, but is proudly welcomed year after year.
“One of the best compliments I got recently was by my banker. He said a client came in and was excited that his son was really lucky to be hired by this great local company that did ‘something in foreign trade.’ Just the fact that a parent relayed it that way, you can’t get a better compliment,” he said.
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