Year in and year out, a parade of central Indiana companies sells to out-of-state buyers. Such deals aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, the wealth they help create often serves as fuel to launch and expand upstart firms that might become our major employers of tomorrow. Yet it’s also great to see a local company follow a different path—one aimed at positioning the firm for long-term independence. Such was the route recently taken by the Indianapolis construction firm Shiel Sexton Co., which finalized a transaction Sept. 30 making it 100 percent employee-owned.

Shiel Sexton, founded in 1962, established an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, for 30 percent of the company in 2012—a move that always was intended to be a precursor to the 100 percent ESOP it now has in place. The ESOP is part of the company’s retirement plan. Shares will gradually be distributed to employees’ accounts over many years—without any financial contributions by employees.

“If you go back 15 to 20 years, we always had a mantra of perpetuating the company,” CEO Mike Dilts said. “We take a lot of pride in being an Indianapolis-headquartered business. We were never going to sell our company to anyone but ourselves.”

ESOPs are relatively rare in Indiana, and that’s a shame, said Steve Smith, a partner at the law firm Krieg DeVault who has structured more than 300 ESOP transactions across the country, including Shiel Sexton’s.

Read more: With employee ownership, firm takes road less traveled | 2016-12-29 | Indianapolis Business Journal |