When a downturn in the economy reduced the number of jobs available for its clients, Double S Industries decided to create jobs of its own.
The non-profit organization, which provides employment assistance to adults with disabilities, is starting two new businesses after a $99,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
In the past, Double S found work for its clients through various businesses in Erie County. Economic changes within the manufacturing and assembly fields drastically affected those employment opportunities, assistant director Laura Nickles said
"A lot of the opportunities that were out there for our clients are no longer there," she said.
To keep employment opportunities flowing, business manager Charles Wright filed for a USDA grant so Double S could start its own business.
On June 5, Double S was awarded $99,000 for equipment and inventory to start its own "green" sign shop and a digital archiving management business. The businesses will employ more than 15 adults.
Nickles said Double S Industries Sign and Graphics is an in-house, self-supporting operation that uses computer technology to create "intricately" detailed, extremely durable signs for the general public, non-profit and for-profit organizations.
"The board used for the signs is made from 100-percent recycled plastic milk jugs," Wright said. "The estimated life expectancy of the signs is around 400 years."
"The shavings from the cut sign are sent back to be recycled again," Nickles said.
Wright said it was a "win-win-win" situation.
"We're providing employment for our clients, a service for local businesses and organizations, and we're recycling what we don't use," he said.
Wright said he worked with the software before writing the grant, so he was familiar with the application process and how the system worked.
Nickles said applying for the grant was a tedious job.
"They wanted to know everything in the application," she said. "We had to prove there was interest in the community and how many clients would be working, along with the basic outline of what we hoped to accomplish."
The last equipment for the sign shop was delivered Tuesday. Standing near shelves stacked with 4-by-8-foot multi-colored boards and the expansive CNC router table, Nickles, Wright and support specialist David Baum described how the new businesses will operate.
"We make a three-dimensional sign cut out of colored board through a router system," Baum said. "The computer software tells the router what we're trying to design, and it drills out the info and cuts in the details."
Most of the boards are layered with two colors. The computer tells the router how deep to drill, varying the color, size and shape of the images. Baum said the equipment can produce detail as small as the engraving on a piece of jewelry.
"The whole process is customer driven," Wright said. "We tell the computer what they want, and the computer tells the router what to do. Customers can send their own designs, or we can create them from this software."
Wright said there's at least four local businesses inquiring about the signs, which are weather- and fade-resistant, affordable, low-maintenance and professional in appearance.
Double S Industries Digital Archiving will offer an alternative to storing files in space-consuming file boxes.
"Our clients take the staples out, tape up tears and scan all the paperwork," Wright said. "It all can be stored on disks."
Wright said the digital shop equipment, which included two computers, scanners and software cost about $25,990. The installation, software and equipment for the sign shop totaled $73,000.
"We used all the grant funds to completely purchase what we needed," he said. "It's a great example of tax dollars at work. We want to be better stewards of our tax dollars and be self-supporting."
The shops are taking orders and should be running within the next week or two.
"The whole purpose is to give meaningful employment to MRDD adults," Baum said. "To provide gainful employment for them and an opportunity to make money so they can improve their life through the way they live and the quality of the things they have."
Interested in storing your files digitally or purchasing a new sign for your business/non-profit organization?
Call Double S Industries, 419-626-1048 for pricing and product availability.