Best Places to Work

Local Businesses Earn Accolades For Providing Benefits and Balance

By Gina Gallucci-White | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 08.03.21 – Lifestyles, People & Places

Providing gift cards to local restaurants, getting office massage chairs and offering wellness programs to employees and their families are just some of the unique perks at the businesses that were named the Best Places to Work this year.

The annual awards, which aim to recognize innovative, creative and forward-thinking employers, began 19 years ago as a partnership between the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, Frederick County Workforce Services, the City of Frederick Department of Econom-ic Development and the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.

Jodie Bollinger, director of business retention and expansion at the Office of Economic Devel-opment, notes the number one issue businesses face is their workforce. “To be able to attract and to retain is extremely important especially during these times,” she says. “So, when businesses can offer really unique and creative benefits to attract and retain employees, they should be honored in doing that. Also, other businesses can see what they are doing as a model and maybe im-plement some of the things that they are doing for their business.”

This year’s awards were given in five categories, based on number of employees.

Small Employer: Octavo Designs

Octavo Designs specializes in creativity, not only on behalf of their clients in areas like branding and graphic design but also for its staff. Whether its providing massage chairs for employees to relax in while they work, hosting fitness challenges or putting together outings to the movies, zip lining or whitewater rafting, owner Sue Hough notes the company has a work hard, play hard culture. “It is about having fun, right?“ she says. “We spend so much of our life at work so I do try to have extras” for the staff.

Opened in 2000, the Frederick-based company offers benefits that rival larger companies, including a paid training, 401(k) and three weeks a year of vacation time during the first five years of employment, and four weeks after. “I want [staff] to be happy to come to work,” Hough says. “… They are family. We really do care about our employees.”

Small/Medium Employer: Dr. Harvey Levy & Associates

When the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of appointments on the daily schedule, Dr. Harvey Levy & Associates wanted to make sure its staff was still able to get their dental care. So, the office opened on a Saturday for cleanings and other dental needs of staff only.

Open since the early 1980s, the Frederick dental practice has 25 full- and part-time staff members. The practice’s extremely low turnover rate is reflected in an average employment time of 13 years. 

“A happy and safe and enjoyable work environment creates very productive team members and it helps us shine in each of our fields to the best of our ability,” says Samantha Franklin, assistant practice manager.

Medium/Large Employer: Dynamic Automotive

Dynamic Automotive CEO Dwayne Myers believes potential career growth is their key work benefit. “Just because you come on as an entry-level person or a technician, it doesn’t mean you can’t grow and elevate in the company,” he says. “Even though we are a small company there are opportunities for you.”

Opened in 1995 and featuring five locations across Frederick County, the company offers a youth and registered apprentice training programs. “They are key for retention and attraction for new talent in our industry,” he says. Because of those programs’ successes, the company decided about five years ago to focus on every team members’ goals over a one-, three- and five-year period and help them reach those targets. As a result, when Dynamic opened its Emmitsburg store in late May, “we had people already in place to take over the leadership of the new store [and] to fill in the voids that were created by that expansion,” Myers says.

A highly productive team is great, but it is equally important for employees to know they have a future with the company, Myers says. “It’s amazing how taking the time to look inward and focus on your team can then help the growth and advancement of both them and the company,” he says.

Large Employer: Dustin Construction

Sarah Palmer, executive vice president of Dustin Construction, notes it is an exciting time to be a part of the fourth-generation family owned-and-operated construction management and general contracting firm.

“There is a lot of mentoring that goes on in our company,” she says. “A lot of our experienced superintendents and project managers have really done a good job of taking some of these new folks under their wings. It’s been pretty cool the last couple of years to be a part of that and to see how our employees have really taken ownership of the future of the company.”

The Ijamsville-based company offers a benefits plan that includes contributions to a 401(k) plan even if the employee does not contribute, as well as providing a Health Savings Account and funding the maximum allowed amount.

While Dustin usually hosts an annual company party, the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancelation of the event. But instead of holding the money to pay for the party until the next year, the company bought gift cards to locally owned restaurants for all its employees. “We just want to make sure that we do everything we can to take care of them and provide them with a good place to work,” Palmer says.

Major Employer: Frederick National Labs

Since the early 1970s, the staff at Frederick National Labs has been working to combat cancer, HIV/AIDS and emerging health problems. “People who work here tend to stay here for their entire careers and they stay here because we have meaningful work,” says Dr. Ethan Dmitrovsky, director.

Dmitrovsky and the organization’s other leaders know employees can do their best work when they and their loved ones are healthy. “[We] believe deeply in continuous investments in their wellness and their health and their career advancement,” he says.

Through a partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine launched a few years ago, employees can take part in a number of health programs to benefit them and their families. Work Stride provides information on how to prevent cancer as well as recognizing early stages and the best resources available in the event of a diagnosis. Balance is a program designed to help staff with behavioral health needs, including managing stress and depression. There are also two diabetes programs—one focused on those who have already been diagnosed and another dedicated to preventative measures.

“We value, respect and appreciate our workforce who have been very devoted to our mission and we want to invest in them,” Dmitrovsky says.