Up to 100 jobs may be created with the opening of Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries (SEKRI) new manufacturing facility location in Pineville, KY, Albey P. Brock, Bell County Judge Executive stated at a press conference held Wednesday, November 1, 2017. A ribbon cutting ceremony followed at the new plant location on Kentucky Avenue.
SEKRI Executive Director Norm Bradley said plans are underway to have the new facility open near the end of January in 2018. “The structure that formerly housed the local hardware store will be undergoing some structural changes necessary to house that many people, along with machinery and offices,” Bradley said. “Once those updates are complete, we will be announcing the application process,” he added.
SEKRI employs around 530 people in their current 5 locations in Kentucky and Tennessee. However, according to SEKRI spokesperson Stan Baker, “The most amazing thing that SEKRI offers is employment opportunities to people who fall into the disability spectrum.”
Approximately 75% of SEKRI employees have significant disabilities as deemed by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. SEKRI is a preferred manufacturer for AbilityOne, a government procurement program. Currently SEKRI primarily manufactures clothing and gear for the U.S. military.
“517,000 direct labor hours of work were completed by our disabled workforce last year alone,” Bradley said. “We did that with less than 1% rejected product,” he added. Baker said, “The difference between our workforce and your standard American workforce is just one simple thing, our employees choose to come to work,” he added. “Many get a disability check and qualify for enough government subsidized programs to meet most of their basic needs. They can stay home. They choose not to. They choose to make their lives better and to serve their communities through gainful employment,” Baker concluded.
“The creation of jobs is a tremendous boon to our area,” Brock said. “And we will be a great partner to SEKRI to make sure those jobs stay in our area,” he added. Ed Harris, SEKRI Chairman of the Board of Directors stated that he had a goal, “I wanted to bring jobs to Bell County. With SEKRI leading the helm, these jobs will have a tremendous economic impact on the area.” Harris also serves as Executive Director of the Bell County Economic Development Foundation and serves on the Pine Mountain Regional Industrial Authority.
Bradley stated that organization made around 1 million patrol caps and hats for the U.S. military last year. In addition to patrol caps, SEKRI manufactures improved first aid kits (IFAK), fire retardant garments, uniforms and other technical gear to outfit military personnel and keep them safe. SEKRI also has several commercial manufacturing contracts and is always seeking more. “Many products that require technical engineering are better suited for a manufacturing facility with experience in producing technical gear using high performance fabrics,” Bradley said. “We have seasoned engineers and mechanics at each plant who know how to make things happen. We retrofit work spaces for our disabled workforce so they can perform their job duties and tasks effectively. And we use that workforce to manufacture technical gear that can keep our troops from suffering severe burns from improvised explosive device (IED) or just to be safe in general.
SEKRI is a non-profit organization that began in 1971 to meet employment needs for those individuals most would deem unemployable. From those humble beginnings and over many years of growth, the company now has 4 facilities in Kentucky and one facility in Jellico, TN. The organizations 6th facility will be located in downtown Pineville, KY.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Debra Lambert, Kentucky District 30 Senator Brandon Smith, Pineville Mayor Scott Madon, Bell County Court Clerk, Debbie Gambrel and several local business owners and chamber members.