Local News: SWI Barry-Lawrence Doubles Staff (2/12/22)

Kim wraps Sunny Bunny Easter Eggs at SWI Barry-Lawrence in Monett for the upcoming annual Monett Young Professionals Network (MYPN) Easter Egg Hunt. Kim and another SWI employee will spend the next few weeks wrapping around 8,000 eggs for youngsters to hunt and find at Monett South Park soccer fields. The annual event is scheduled to take place starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 9 at the Monett South Park soccer fields. Melonie Roberts/reporter@monett-times.com

Community support provides more opportunities for certified workers

The quiet, steady hum of the newly installed heating units at SWI Barry-Lawrence in Monett can barely be heard above the radio which wails a stream of country classics for the enjoyment of employees.

“In the past, industrial-sized fans were used to move air, and workers couldn’t hear the music above the fan noise,” said Rob Walker, Monett’s plant manager. “Employees really like having the radio on during their work day.”

Tristin, left, and Marshelle make cardboard pallets at SWI Barry-Lawrence in Monett. The new contract of employment, from SMC Electric Supply to Monett, gives shop employees the opportunity to show off their skills in building heavy-duty pallets, a lighter, recyclable alternative to wooden pallets. Cardboard pallets can support a load of up to 10,000 pounds. Melonie Roberts/reporter@monett-times.com

This is just one of the recent renovations the former Monett-area sheltered workshop has undergone since SWI Industrial Solutions Inc., of Springfield, took over and

renamed the facility, which has provided employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities since 1968.

Under new management, SWI Barry-Lawrence’s workforce and local industry contracts have more than doubled.

Laken builds base supports for cardboard pallets being built at SWI Barry-Lawrence in Monett. Cores provide strategic support to evenly distribute cargo weight. This is just one of many local industry contracts that workshop employees are currently fulfilling. Melonie Roberts/reporter@monett-times.com

“We now have contracts with Bass Equipment, WinTech, EFCO, SMC Electric Supply and Interpack in northern Arkansas,” Walker said. “Plus, I already have workers wrapping 8,000 Easter eggs for this year’s annual Monett Young Professionals Network Easter Egg Hunt.

“Our workforce has increased by almost 60%. We started with 22 employees in August 2021, and we’re currently at 35. I’ll be adding three more next week, and we’re still hiring. I need more people. I will hire anyone who has been certified.

One change taking effect on March 15 is that SWI Barry-Lawrence will no longer be in the recycling business. Although the facility has accepted cardboard in the past, all recycling efforts are now directed to the Monett Recycling Center, located at 205 15th St. This facility is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. pm on Saturday.

“We have made the decision to no longer accept recycling out of concern for the health and safety of our workers,” he said. “We seek to keep all of our employees indoors in a temperature-controlled environment. We educated our customers about recycling and informed them of the local options available to them. »

Employees have the opportunity to work on a different project almost every day.

“That way they don’t get bored,” Walker said. “While most businesses in the area complain about labor shortages, we are lucky to have workers willing to come here every day. This is where their friends are. I like the growth of our employees and the fact that our employees want to come to work. »

Walker also credited a wealth of community support for the rebranded company.

“I knew if we could do the [facility] upgrades and get the job, that would pave the way for employees to come in,” he said. “We’ve had tremendous support from local industry.

The next phase of renovations are set to kick off in the coming weeks, with plans to knock down a back wall and build ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant bathrooms.

Plans also call for kitchen renovations that require the addition of dishwashers, sinks, stoves, washers and dryers.

“We want to teach our employees some basic life skills,” Walker said. “We can teach them how to easily prepare certain foods and how to clean up, as well as how to do their laundry. We want our workers to be ready to perform at their highest level. This includes preparing them for a time when they may want to live independently.

Michael A. Bynum