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Caster Concepts receives state impact award for "doing the right … – Battle Creek Enquirer

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the group awarding the Corporate Impact Award to Caster Concepts as the Michigan Public Service Commission. The MPSC, as the state’s utility and telecommunications regulator, was not involved in the award presentation. The Michigan Community Service Commission, in conjunction with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, presented the award.
ALBION — To whom much is given, much is expected.
These are the words Bill Dobbins has chosen to live by as president of the Albion-based manufacturing company, Caster Concepts.
Founded in the mid-1980s by his father Richard, the company manufactures industrial, heavy-duty casters and wheels for a variety of applications. What began with just three employees in a 6,000-square-foot workspace downtown has now blossomed to include 120 employees and multiple machining shops, headlined by a 70,000-square-foot facility northeast of downtown in Parma Township.
The company’s substantial growth has also meant growth for Albion, with Dobbins placing an emphasis on investing in the health and well-being of employees, education and technology programs for kids and community redevelopment to stimulate the local economy through the company’s philanthropic arm, Caster Cares.
In recognition of those efforts, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Community Service Commission recently named Caster Concepts a recipient of the 2022 Corporate Impact Award.
“For the state to recognize that this is unique, I think it reinforces what we’re doing,” Dobbins said. “I think that’s the important thing. Having the recognition isn’t the end game. The recognition reinforces that we’re doing the right thing at the right time in the right place.”
The company was one of 45 individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations formally recognized for their community efforts during a Nov. 17 ceremony at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.
“Michigan succeeds because of Michiganders who go above and beyond to serve their communities and lift up others,” Gov. Whitmer said in a statement. “This year’s winners get things done even when nobody’s looking because they know that every contribution makes a huge impact.”
Sitting inside the company headquarters on a cloudy December morning, Dobbins acknowledged that Albion has experienced its fair share of economic challenges.
“It’s not unlike a lot of towns in the Midwest, industrialized towns that created wealth through early industrial companies and then (those companies) moved either offshore or modernized or relocated or whatever it may be, a variety of different reasons,” Dobbins said. “Albion wasn’t prepared for it to end … Private ownership in the community was lost and hence investment in the community was lost.”
The extensive wave of community outreach that has now become Caster Cares can be traced to the summer of 2004. Recognizing an opportunity to breathe new life in the community, the Dobbins family unofficially adopted the Victory Park Band Shell, renovating the structure and launching the “Swingin’ at the Shell” free concert series.
The slate of free summer concerts will celebrate its 19th season this summer.
“It’s just evolved over these 18 years of starting small, ‘Hey, we think we can do this,'” Dobbins said of the company’s community efforts. “Where it will evolve to in the long run? I don’t know, I just think good things will happen from it.”
In the past five years, Caster Concepts has partnered to relocate and open seven small businesses in Albion, including a bakery, Foundry Bakehouse and Deli, and an independent, locally sourced market, Superior Street Mercantile.
The company has also invested in the construction of new housing, including the Peabody Apartments and Brick Street Lofts, in an effort to attract new residents and improve property values.
Seeking to foster a technology and engineering pipeline for Michigan businesses, the company launched the technical education nonprofit INNOVATE Albion in 2019. The company purchased and renovated a 100-year-old, three-story Masonic Temple to house the program, with in-person classes beginning in the summer of 2020.
Primarily comprised of after-school programming and summer courses, the nonprofit aims to expose area K-12 students to a variety of hands-on, high-tech, in demand careers, according to Caroline Hurteau, Dobbins’ daughter and executive director of INNOVATE Albion.
“The ultimate goal is that I meet a student in kindergarten and I have classes that they can continue to take and experiences they can continue to engage in until they graduate high school,” Hurteau, who also serves as a community liaison for Caster Concepts, said.
The nonprofit continues to add classes and has successfully supported robotics teams at the elementary and middle school levels thus far, with plans to support additional teams — including at the high school level — in the near future.
INNOVATE Albion was also able to serve as a field trip experience for all Marshall Public Schools fourth-grade students this fall at no cost, thanks to the Albion Community Foundation.
“If we can get a kid in for a field trip and spark their interest and send them home with information about INNOVATE Albion or robotics, the hope is that they come back and engage with us in an after-school program or a summer class,” Hurteau said. “Then they may choose to join a team, and then they’re continuing to interact with industry professionals and the mentors on our team, learning about jobs and careers and what’s really out there.”
While continuing to make substantial investments in the community, Caster Concepts also aims to bolster the health and well-being of its employees.
To that end, the company routinely purchases blocks of tickets to the Bohm Theatre and gives them to employees and their families. It also distributes $50 book vouchers to a local bookstore — Stirling Books & Brew — and in an effort to promote health and wellness, purchases produce from local farmers and hosts a free, employee-only farmers market.
“What I love about what Caster does is it connects the entire community and really brings us together in really unique ways,” Hurteau said. “The book vouchers and movie vouchers, it’s meaningful to the families … It gives them an opportunity to enjoy time together, have a shared experience.”
The company also distributed more than $40,000 in gas cards to employees in 2022 to help alleviate the rising cost of fuel, and employees supported the community themselves by volunteering to restore parks, the local post office and even city hall. 
“If you’ve received more, more is expected of you,” Dobbins said. “I think my father would expect that of us, of the business that he invested in at 67 years old, that built a legacy around being a great place to work, being a safe place to work, being a place that fulfills (employees’) own dreams … I think all of those things he would feel really good about.”
Contact reporter Greyson Steele at


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