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For Immediate Release:                         Contact:
October 5, 2016                                                       Melanie Mowry Etters
                                                                                    Communication Director


Companies Honored as Exceptional Employers

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Ten businesses that hire people with disabilities were recognized by the state of Florida today for being exceptional employers of people with disabilities.  The businesses from around the state were honored with a plaque made by people with disabilities. The 11th annual celebration was held at Tallahassee City Hall as part of recognizing October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), Blind Services, and Vocational Rehabilitation presented the Exceptional Employer Awards to companies that have a strong commitment to employing people with disabilities.  Event sponsors were the Able Trust, City of Tallahassee, and RESPECT of Florida.
The 2016 award-winning businesses are:

  • Barrette Outdoor Living (Brooksville)
  • Bealls
  • Flowers Baking Company of Jacksonville LLC
  • Greenspoon Marder (Fort Lauderdale)
  • Humane Society of Bay County Thrift and Gift Store (Panama City)
  • Mantiques Clock Shop (Inverness)
  • The Pickle Baron of Key West
  • The Print Shop (Naples)
  • Rosen Shingle Creek Resort (Orlando)
  • Walgreens

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am thrilled to recognize 10 outstanding businesses today. These deserving companies have made a commitment to employing a diverse workforce. These business know that individuals with disabilities are some of the most loyal employees you can find.”

"Floridians with unique abilities offer so much to our communities and thousands of employers in our state,” said Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “I am proud of the partnerships in our state that are helping secure meaningful opportunities for all Floridians, including those with unique abilities, that enable them to experience a fulfilling career that puts them on the path to financial sustainability.”

Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Aleisa McKinlay said, “Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to reach out to us at Vocational Rehabilitation, in order to make that next great hire. Our customers come with all types of education, skills, abilities, and training. At any given time, we have thousands of qualified potential employees just waiting to use what they know to help you expand your bottom line!”

“Employers hire veterans with service-connected disabilities because they have proven leadership and technical skills, and embody the traits of integrity and teamwork from their military service,” said Glenn Sutphin, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.  “Employers who hire and train service-disabled veterans may also qualify for tax credits and additional incentives.  It’s a win-win for both parties.”

Speakers at the Exceptional Employer event included Chick-fil-A employee Adam Longfellow and Pensacola Walmart employee Rachel Caylor.  Others providing remarks were Department of Economic Opportunity Director Cissy Proctor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, State Representative Alan Williams, Director of ABLE United John Finch, Able Trust Vice President Guenevere Crum, and Executive Director of RESPECT of Florida Ryland Musick.

Here is information on the ten winning companies:

Barrette Outdoor Living of Brooksville
This company is well known for its aluminum fencing, railing, and gates under the brand Alumi-Guard. Barrett Outdoor Living has a longstanding commitment to hiring people with intellectual disabilities through the Arc Nature Coast. There are 15 people on the payroll which is roughly 13 percent of the workforce of 200 people. These individuals have been given the chance to advance when an opportunity presents itself. The company has adapted both the job and the equipment for particular employees.

Bealls of Florida
Bealls Department and Outlet Stores, plus its Distribution Center have employed 60 individuals with disabilities over the past few years. That shows a strong commitment to hiring people with all types of disabilities.
This organization has been easy to work with for job coaches who need to come into the stores to work with their clients who are Bealls employees.
The team environment fosters a positive working atmosphere.

Flowers Baking Company of Jacksonville LLC
Flowers Baking Company of Jacksonville has hired eight people with disabilities who are now on the payroll. Some of these individuals were hired from Pine Castle, which is a very popular program for people with developmental disabilities in Jacksonville. Flowers has a section in its employee handbook to educate workers about people with disabilities, especially its shift leaders. Managers and all employees are trained about working with individuals with disabilities to ensure a positive working environment for everyone.

Greenspoon Marder of Fort Lauderdale
This employer has hired four people with disabilities and is actively involved in the disability community in South Florida. Greenspoon Marder shows strong support for the Dan Marino Foundation and ARC Broward. Greenspoon Marder hosts job interns for nine weeks so they can gain hands on professional experience in a real working environment. They have hired some of those intern participants. In addition, they have participated in mentoring opportunities and in mock job interviews to help people prepare to enter the workforce. Clearly, Greenspoon Marder has made a tremendous commitment to inclusion.

The Humane Society of Bay County Thrift and Gift Store
This small business has four people with disabilities of its five-person workforce—that’s 80 percent of their workforce. Wow! The Humane Society of Bay County Thrift and Gift Store Manager Brenda Leader in her short 18 months there has hired all her employees through the St. Andrews Bay Center. For some, the job is molded to fit the employee, however, they are expected to do their best, and they do! The store allowed one employee to change how people were checked out because she wasn’t able to figure out the existing system. That type of flexibility ensures that the employees will be able to meet their job expectations. The employees love working at the Thrift Store with their manager, Brenda.

Mantiques Clock Shop of Inverness
Mantiques Clock Shop is a very small business with a big heart for people with disabilities. There are three people who work in the shop, and two of them have disabilities—that’s 66 percent of the workforce. Having a valuable job makes both of these individuals shine and excel. They just needed the opportunity provided by Mantiques Clock Shop. With the hands-on training, one person has already achieved the title of Apprenticeship Clockmaker. This is very intricate work. The owner works patiently with both employees to teach them these valuable skills.

Rosen Shingle Creek Resort of Orlando
This business is making a difference when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. Rosen Shingle Creek Resort has hired 26 individuals with disabilities over the past few years. The hotel also hosts Project Search which is a national model program for preparing individuals with disabilities for the job market. This partnership with the Orange County Public Schools is a valuable program for students who need to learn new skills to enter the workforce. The hotel staff treat the interns like they are regular employees. They participate in employee orientation, staff meetings, and special events to learn what it is like to be a hotel employee.

The Pickle Baron of Key West
This small business is only three years old and from its beginning the owners, Dustan Carpenter and John Nutting, had the community in mind. The retail store has hired two individuals from Monroe ARC or MARC. They also host a vocational program so MARC participants can learn skills in a professional kitchen that can be transferred to other possible jobs in the future. The two Pickle Baron of Key West employees, Ben Neff and Tony Maynard, are involved in all aspects of the business. They wash and sterilize the jars, they select and cut produce, they pack the jars, pour brine over the produce, then seal the jars. The jars are put in boiling water for 10 minutes, then taken out with tongs. The jars are cooled for two weeks, then they are labeled and priced, and finally offered for sale in the shop. The employees have learned the intricacies of pickling and working in a professional kitchen.

The Print Shop of Naples
The Print Shop employs 14 people with all types of disabilities. The company’s Vice President Dave Hamilton has a brother with developmental disabilities who works at the shop. They decided to hire additional people with disabilities after receiving a large-scale, long term project where they needed additional employees. This opportunity has made a huge difference in the lives of the employees. For some people this was their first job. For others, they had been unemployed for years with no viable job option in sight. Now they are working. These employees are enjoying success being part of a team that is producing a quality product.

Walgreens Stores
This company goes the extra mile to teach job skills and hire people with all types of disabilities. Over the past five years, Walgreens has hired 117 people with disabilities to work in its stores through Vocational Rehabilitation. Walgreens is well known for its distribution centers having a majority of its employees with disabilities. That inclusive attitude has broadened to include its retail stores, which is wonderful. In a very small Walgreens store in Starke with a workforce of 20, they have two employees with disabilities that have worked there for more than 10 years. They have also hired another person with a disability in the past few years. Walgreens is truly an inclusive workforce.