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Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing
Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing
At Isthmus Engineering, owners Bill Eddy (left) and Dan Haas (center) assemble a factory machine with employee Jim Uhe.
Isthmus Engineering in Madison, Wis. is a custom designer and builder of factory machines. The company was formed in 1980 and morphed into a worker-owned shop three years later. Ownership has since expanded to 28 "directors" who share democratic control, and this has helped company ride out the recession, said John Kessler, an engineer and one of four co-founders.

Isthmus laid off two paid-by-the-hour workers earlier this year, but it still employs 20 non-owner assembly workers, he said. The directors have avoided further layoffs by agreeing to accept a lighter profit, and by juggling schedules between the machining, assembly and engineering departments.

"As a worker-owned company, we can make the decisions to take work at a lesser margin in order to keep people," said Kessler. "We have reshuffled duties to keep the work that we do have from going out the door, while also spreading out the pain as much as possible."

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