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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BLUE THING #5: Featured Company of the Week

A few weeks ago my wife Cheryl and I had the good fortune to be invited by Leslie Prewitt, Director of External Relations, to tour the OBI (Opportunity Builders Inc.) facility in Millersville, MD. What a pleasant delight to see so many smiling faces busily at work. You see, OBI is all about smiles. The smiles from over 400 adults with developmental disabilities along with the smiles of the staff, ultimately translate into the smiles from the many satisfied customers who have chosen to use the services of OBI.

The evolution of OBI began back in 1962 when a group of parents and educators along with other advocates gathered to create a non-profit organization known as the Sheltered Workshop of Anne Arundel County. The SWAAC facility was an old firehouse on Truck House Road in Severna Park later to relocate in a warehouse on Langley road in Glen Bernie. With the establishment of a community employment placement program in 1990, SWAAC was given a new image when rebranded as Opportunity Builders, Inc. In 1991 with a continued need for greater space, OBI moved to a 16,000 square foot warehouse facility in Hanover, MD. This facility was expanded to 30, 000 square feet before they again needed to enlarge again. In 2009 OBI moved to its newly constructed 41,000 square foot facility in Millersville where they continue to grow today.

The overall mission for OBI is to provide adults with developmental disabilities an environment that allows them to grow in their abilities and their self motivation to be contributing members of our society through offering vocational training, employment opportunities, support services along with recreational activities. OBI wishes to address the needs of the areas developmentally disabled, promote personal fulfillment and encourage independence. OBI seeks to educate and train their people to be able to make their own choices with meaningful work with the ultimate goal to build greater self-worth.

Over the years OBI has many success stories. In 2008, OBI contracted 29 companies in the Baltimore-Washington region which created over $150,000 in revenue. Most of this was used to pay worker wages. Companies such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Kohl’s, Home Depot, The Gap, Sears, Old Navy, KFC, Giant Foods, Safeway, and Pizza Hut all employ individuals served by OBI.

The greatest success stories, though, often reside in the smaller businesses that contract with OBI. One such story began a couple of years ago when a Glen Bernie entrepreneur, Eric Jackson donated 3,000 pair of Lock Laces, a simple unique shoe-lacing mechanism that features elastic laces with a spring-triggered locking device which replaces the necessity of tying the laces. Eric had first developed the lock laces for his own use focused specifically for runners but quickly found that many other adults including adults with disabilities were highly interested in his invention. Lock Laces became a hit at OBI in that besides so many personally wishing to use them, OBI has created the packaging assembly line for the marketing of the product and continues partnering with Jackson packaging as many as 150,000 pair a year.

The adults working at the OBI facility are paid at on a piece rate basis. Contractors that use OBI know that they will receive quality work at a competitive market rate. The skills that OBI workers can provide are packaging, assembling, and binding along with product distribution.

Employers who hire OBI adults reap the benefits of having dedicated employees who are enthusiastic and specifically trained and committed to accomplishing their tasks with excellence. To watch them at work inspires others to be better employees and citizens.

Before sending an individual out into the work force OBI will build a rigorous training program. Their staff will work directly with the individual until they are confident that the worker can accomplish their assigned tasks. The OBI staff continues to monitor the worker and be certain to hold to the highest of standards. The supervision is for both quality control and employee confidence.

To gain a greater understanding of the vast offerings of OBI along with testimonies of both employers, contractors and employees please go to: and click on Our Story.

OBI Facility in Millersville, MD

For further information regarding OBI please contact:
Leslie I.D. Prewitt
Director of External Relations
Opportunity Builders, Inc.
8855 Veterans Highway
Millersville, MD 21108
410.787.0700, fax: 410.761.9192

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The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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