Georgia Institute for the Blind receives recognition

ALBANY -- Georgia Industries for the Blind (GIB) recently received the Employment Retention/Growth/Upward Mobility Award from the National Industries for the Blind.

The award is for GIB's commitment to increasing employment and economic opportunities for those who are blind, officials say.

"It (the award) is a sense of pride for employees," said GIB Executive Director Jim Hughes. "It puts us among only a few agencies under the NIB umbrella."

GIB, which is operated by the Georgia Department of Labor, has added 20 new workers at its manufacturing plant in Albany. That increased by 7.2 percent the total number of hours worked in the past year at its three plants.

"They are full-blown state employees (with similar benefits)," Hughes said. "The average wage is well above minimum wage."

The other two facilities are located in Bainbridge and Griffin.

"This is the third time that GIB has won this national award -- twice in the last three years -- for its efforts to provide more jobs for workers who are visually impaired," said State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "It's symbolic of the Georgia Department of Labor's ongoing commitment to increase employment and economic opportunities for people with disabilities."

GIB is a nonprofit agency that employs more than 200 workers at its plants, roughly 100 of whom are blind. Despite the workers' disabilities, they produce products such as pillows, file folders, binders, card guides, packaged flatware, safety vests, bags and screen printing.

Seven out of 10 working-age Americans who are blind are not employed. NIB and 88 associated agencies, such as GIB, serve as the largest employer of people who are blind by the sale of SKILCRAFT products and services through the AbilityOne Program, formerly the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program.

"We're pleased to reward our associated agencies, such as GIB, for their efforts to retain and grow employment and create upward mobility options for people who are blind," said NIB President and CEO Kevin Lynch. "These awards are evidence of their hard work to enable more people who are blind to achieve socioeconomic independence and equality. That's a shared mission that's vitally important to us all."

GIB was founded in 1949. The Albany manufacturing plant, which opened in February, is located at 1120 W. Broad Ave.