Employers, disabled benefit from program

Three area companies create jobs for disabled workers and receive thousands of dollars in free machinery.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Creating jobs for people with disabilities isn't just a noble thing to do, it's good for a business's bottom line.
Through the Governor's Initiative on Jobs for People with Disabilities, small to midsize companies looking to grow can get the equipment or machinery they need free of charge and access to a pool of skilled, prescreened workers in need of jobs.
The program, a cooperative effort of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (RSC) and Ohio businesses, seeks to create jobs for the disabled by providing incentives for businesses that create and maintain those jobs for five years, explained Sandy DeSantis, RSC employer services specialist.
Under the Governor's Initiative, RSC buys equipment the employer needs, DeSantis explained. "For every few thousand dollars spent, we look to the employer to create one job slot for a disabled worker." The employer hires the workers from RSC's pool of prescreened, qualified applicants.
Workers receive a competitive salary and benefits and, DeSantis said, if their jobs are retained for five years, the company assumes ownership of the equipment free and clear.
The Governor's Initiative was introduced in 1995. Thus far, 32 companies have taken part. Seven of those companies are in Northeast Ohio including three in the Youngstown area: Vinylume Products in Austintown, Falmer Screw Products & amp; Manufacturing in Boardman and Industrial Machining & amp; Design Services in Warren.
Vinylume's experience: "I think we were one of the first companies they contacted," said Jack White, president of Vinylume. His company became involved in the Governor's Initiative about six years ago.
At the time, Vinylume was undergoing a major expansion and needed a new piece of extrusion equipment that cost $35,000, White reported. RSC bought the equipment and Vinylume hired several disabled workers through the commission.
Five years later, Vinylume assumed ownership of the equipment, having created several permanent jobs, five of which are filled by people with disabilities.
"It's a good program. It helped us and it helped the people we hired," White observed. "The money's good. We'd get involved again."
Vinylume makes a concerted effort to hire disabled workers, "because they need a break," added Orlando White, company vice president. Hiring workers who may have had difficulty landing a job also has benefits, he said: "Most everybody appreciates their jobs."
Vinylume, a family-operated business established in 1964, makes fenestration products -- window profiles, insulated glass and porch enclosures -- for the home improvement industry. It serves customers in 16 states, operates round-the-clock six days a week and employs between 70 and 75 workers.
Falmer Screw: Falmer Screw Products has been involved with the Governor's Initiative for more than three years, said Rick Dravecky, president. He learned about the program through Youngstown Employment and Training Corp.
Because of growing demand for Falmer's products -- precision machined parts -- the company needed a new automatic screw machine that cost $80,000, Dravecky recalled.
Through the Governor's Initiative, Falmer was able to obtain the machine without spending a dime. The manufacturer hired eight workers through the program. "They did a very good job finding people who wanted to work," Dravecky said. "A lot of the time people are looking for a job but they don't want to work. We're busy and we have a lot of work so it's important that our employees want to do their jobs. It seems like they are more disciplined to come to work every day and while they're here, they are willing to learn."
Also, Dravecky said, representatives from the program "do a very good job of maintaining our relationship. They sit in on the interviews and learn what we need."
Not all of the workers hired through the Governor's Initiative are still at Falmer, Dravecky said. Some left for other jobs, another quit because he didn't want to be moved into a more skilled position even though he was qualified, and one was laid off because work has slowed in the department where he worked.
Win-win situation: Had Falmer Screw not gotten involved in the Governor's Initiative, the company still would have gotten the new equipment, Dravecky said, but it would have been a major expense for the company, and the workers who were hired might not have gotten a job.
"I think this is a great program. We can help somebody and it's nice to be compensated," he said.
Falmer Screw, established in 1947, is operated by the third generation of the founding family, Dravecky and his brothers Frank, Joe and George. Another brother, Dave, was a professional baseball player.
Industrial Machining & amp; Design Services just recently became involved with the Governor's Initiative and declined to comment.
Carefully chosen: The Governor's Initiative is not available to every employer. "We're looking at smaller to midsized companies that have a difficult time getting funds," DeSantis said. "It's not a simple process. They must develop business plans and we carefully evaluate the company. We're looking at investing a substantial amount of money and we want to make sure that the company is going to be there."
RSC's mission is to work with people with disabilities to assist them in achieving greater community participation through opportunities for employment and independence.

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