LITTLE ROCK, AR (TalkBusiness) - While unemployment has remained a troublesome economic factor more than five years after the Great Recession, it has helped one Arkansas non-profit grow four-fold.
Since 2008, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas has seen a rapid expansion of its store and drop-off locations, its internal workforce, and the number of services it provides.
Fathom this: in the last 5 years, Goodwill has grown from 140 employees to more than 600, and its shopping outlets and donation centers have mushroomed from 16 to 36. Five years ago, Goodwill served 1,100 citizens and placed 89 in jobs. In 2013, the non-profit served 8,300 Arkansans and placed 1,300 in the employment ranks.
Brian Itzkowitz, CEO for Goodwill’s Arkansas footprint, deserves a lot of the credit. He joined the non-profit in 2008 and has helped lead the retail and service organization to its new heights.
“The most important thing is all our services are free. When you donate to Goodwill, we’re able to fund those programs,” Itzkowitz said.
Recently, Goodwill gave tours of the 576,000 sq. ft. resource center into which it has recently moved a portion of operations. The new facility at the Scott Hamilton Dr. exit of I-30 in southwest Little Rock will house training programs, staff offices, a shopping outlet, and a major recycling facility.
“All of this creates jobs for people,” he said. “Over the course of time, we’ll build out offices and have a full-blown career center here.”
Itzkowitz says that roughly 96% of his company’s expenses are funded by its discount retail operations. The remaining portion of the budget comes from grants, gifts and fundraisers.
A significant portion of money is earmarked for workforce training programs, which Goodwill has segmented to a variety of targeted unemployed Arkansans. The long-term unemployed can find help with career counseling, resume building, and worker retraining for computer skills. Additionally, Goodwill has adult work training programs for the developmentally disabled and adults with autism.
Another successful program for Goodwill is its Transitional Employment Opportunity (TEO) program, which retrains incarcerated individuals and helps them reintegrate into the workforce.
The program has served about 240 individuals since it began in 2009. More than 100 people have completed the program and secured employment. Goodwill says the recidivism rate is only 8% – meaning 92% have remained employed – compared to the state’s average of about 50% recidivism.
“They go from being a tax recipient and the cost of keeping somebody incarcerated to now they’re employed, helping their family, and becoming a taxpayer,” Itzkowitz said.
To hear more of Itzkowitz’s interview and how the Goodwill business model works, click on this mp3.
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