Johnston County Industries isn’t like other companies.
While JCI has employees who make goods and provide services, the goal isn’t to turn a profit to line the pockets of shareholders or executives. It’s to help people, says Bill Sharek, president and chief executive.
And after celebrating 40 years in business this month, JCI plans to continue doing just that.
JCI was established in 1975 as a nonprofit community rehabilitation facility to evaluate and train people with barriers to entering or returning to the workforce. Those barriers can be mental, emotional, physical or circumstantial, such as an accident, Sharek said.
JCI uses the term “barriers” rather than disabilities, because it provides services to far more people than those with physical disabilities, Sharek said, and the nonprofit hopes to expand even further.
“This is about taking people who might have been tax receivers and helping them become taxpayers,” Sharek said. “People face all kinds of challenges, and sometimes they just need a little help – some guidance or a connection. That’s what we do here, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
JCI, which began with just a handful of employees, has grown to 128 full- and part-time staff with more than 165,000 square feet of manufacturing space in nine locations.
The nonprofit company receives state and federal aid but also generates revenue from the sales of its products and services. All profits go back into the program to improve or expand services, Sharek said.
JCI was the vision of the late Nolan Hinson, who wanted a place of coordinated services dedicated to people with disabilities seeking employment. JCI provides job evaluation, job tryouts, on-site work in its manufacturing division, community integration and other services.
Through evaluation and then training, JCI creates a pool of qualified workers for local employers.
Selma-based JCI provides services in Johnston, Wayne, Sampson, Lee and Harnett counties. In addition to its manufacturing operation in Selma, JCI runs the JCI Thrift Store and Donation Center on Bright Leaf Boulevard in Smithfield and the Cyber Cafe restaurant in the Johnston Medical Mall in Smithfield. It also staffs the Selma train station.
JCI is growing by bringing on more programs and opportunities for both potential employees and its employer partners. In the past five years, JCI has:
▪ Served more than 6,000 people through its programs and services.
▪ Created 64 jobs for clients in operations runs by JCI.
▪ Helped nearly 900 people find employment through its job-placement program. In all, JCI placed people in more than 150 workplaces.
▪ Helped more than 900 youth earn high school diplomas and summer work experience.
▪ Generated more than $29.1 million in revenue.
▪ Had an economic impact of more than $10.1 million in wages, taxes, benefits and the purchase of services and products.
JCI also has opened offices in Clinton and Sanford to deliver youth services to Lee and Sampson counties. JCI expanded services to people with mental health and substance-abuse issues.
JCI’s manufacturing division is the busiest it has been in 10 years, adding customers in its product-assembly area. Among other things, employees in manufacturing make wooden crates, assemble dishwasher parts for an appliance company, package golf tees for a private company and run wiring for medical equipment.
JCI also partners with Johnston County Schools to refurbish classroom science kits.
At the Selma headquarters, large open rooms are full of employees sorting and packaging goods at long tables, working on assembly lines to put products together and completing quality control for manufacturers’ products.
JCI’s custom crating and container segment is strong, Sharek said, increasing more than 300 percent since June 2013.
Using recycled materials, JCI employees also make wreaths and other decorative items that have been popular at craft and trade fairs, Sharek said. The Selma headquarters has an entire section dedicated to crafting brightly colored wreaths, painted wooden letters and other decorations. The crafts also appear on doors and walls throughout the headquarters.
For more information on JCI, call 919-743-8700 or go to www.jcindustries.com. To find the company on Facebook, go to www.facebook.com/JohnstonCountyIndustries.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett