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Future looks bright despite challenges
By Seth Sandronsky
As pandemic lockdowns began, California’s unemployment rate spiked from 4.3 percent to 16 percent. The economic collapse might have devastated one of the Sacramento region’s major organizations—PRIDE Industries, with 5,500 employees and revenue of $300 million.
But PRIDE marched forward, bolstered by its legacy of providing essential services in areas such as facility maintenance, custodial and landscaping. About 60 percent of PRIDE’s employees are people with disabilities, but much of the workforce stayed on the job.
“In the facilities maintenance space, workloads increased as a result of disinfecting requirements that most companies were putting into place,” says Vic Wursten, PRIDE’s chief rehabilitation officer.
PRIDE is a major player in providing workers to assemble goods—a crucial service given the congestion in the global supply chain. PRIDE production crews assemble a range of essential goods.
“The majority of our manufacturing relates to electronics, medical devices and food products,” Wursten says.
For example, PRIDE employees help build heart-rate sensors for Heart Zones, Inc., a business run by Sacramento author, entrepreneur and professional runner Sally Edwards.
“The most remarkable thing about PRIDE Industries is what they do and how well they do it,” Edwards says.
Not all PRIDE employees were able to continue with regular work schedules as the pandemic spread. Some were forced to stay home to protect personal health and safety.
“Initially, when COVID hit, PRIDE Industries’ workforce with intellectual and developmental disabilities were no longer able to work due to higher risk,” Wursten says. “They’ve since been able to return to work incrementally with modified schedules and in an environment where COVID protocol was in place.”
PRIDE is a local success story. It grew from one office in an Auburn church basement to become the nation’s leading employer of people with disabilities. Today the Roseville-based organization serves locations in 15 states and Washington, D.C.
Despite its success, PRIDE still must navigate workplace shifts created by the pandemic. The enduring presence of remote work is a special challenge.
“In the short-term,” Wursten says, “we worked with customers immediately to identify our employees as individuals who were performing essential services, and then of course worked to create a safe environment for all our employees.
“The long-term impact was our shift to remote work. Interestingly, we have seen higher productivity (output per employee per hour) from people. We also added more remote services to our new training and programs serving people with disabilities. That’s something really positive that came out of this.”
And 2022 is shaping up well for PRIDE. Expansion is on track. The future looks positive.
“Our business grew significantly in 2021,” Wursten says. “Along with picking up several new significant contracts, PRIDE Industries completed two mergers—with Crossroads and PWI—in 2021.
“Our expectation is that business will continue to grow in 2022 because we are in industries that remain essential. In some cases, they became even more important during a pandemic and expanded. We anticipate that that’s going to be the case in 2022 as well.”
Seth Sandronsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.