NJ manufacturing company leads the way for blind
As we make our way around the state, my wife Jodi and I have visited some outstanding businesses and met some of the best people New Jersey has to offer.
This week we had the honor of touring a manufacturing company in Cherry Hill that makes uniforms, office supplies and other support material for the U.S. military and other entities.
The products are top quality, the employees are energized and happy to be working.
The factory floor was buzzing with the sounds of sewing machines and cutting tools turning out hundreds of products each hour.
The amazing thing about this company is that most of the employees are legally blind.
Bestwork Industries for the Blind Inc. was founded in 1981 by a World War II veteran and his wife.
Jim Varsaci was wounded during the war and left blind. He and his wife Rita worked hard in the years after running their New Jersey farm. Obviously made much more difficult based on Jim's condition.
Here's a brief synopsis of the founding of the company from their website:
Jim...was able to launch Bestwork Industries for the Blind, Inc. as a private, not-for-profit agency on September 14, 1981. Times were tough at first, and Jim and Rita worked two years without drawing a salary.
Varsaci learned that there were federal government contracts available through the JWOD (Javits, Wagner, O’Day) program for workers who are blind or visually impaired. With the help of Bestwork’s Board of Directors and National Industries for the Blind, Varsaci secured Bestwork’s first JWOD contract. Under the organization’s operating philosophy of high quality, on-time delivery, Bestwork’s reputation brought about more contracts with the Army, Navy, and GSA. What began as a Contract Shop with a few employees has grown into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, successfully partnering with Fortune 500 companies. Bestwork has adopted the universally recognized best practices of Lean Manufacturing and ISO 9001:2015 certification.
We toured the company with the CEO, Jon Katz (a former US Marine) and Barbara Capelli.
It was impressive.
It's a massive facility with all appropriate accommodations made to allow blind workers to find their way to workstations, restrooms and meetings.
We met some spectacular people, all smiling and happy to be working for this great company.
What we learned is that there are an estimated 75,000 people living in New Jersey who are visually impaired or blind.
This company employs nearly 100.
There is a need to do more to both develop local NJ manufacturing and employ those who have serious impairments.
One of the issues that John and I discussed during the tour is a recent study that shows a dollar invested into a non-profit company to employ a blind person, saves the government $2 in social services costs.
Getting blind and visually impaired people to work is both the right thing to do, and cost-effective for taxpayers.
It is time we had a governor who recognizes this and implements a comprehensive program to help companies like Bestwork to expand.
If you are or know of someone visually impaired looking for employment, please visit the company website here
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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Spadea. Any opinions expressed are Bill's own. Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015.