TOWN OF AMSTERDAM – A local non-profit organization and for-profit company have partnered to distribute products produced by individuals with disabilities.
The Albany-based New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID) and Amsterdam-based Hill & Markes Wholesale Distributors’ partnership will reduce environmental costs and increase employment opportunities for those with disabilities.
NYSID shifted its distribution warehouse from Johnstown to the Hill & Markes-owned distribution center in the town of Amsterdam under the agreement implemented last month. From there, Hill & Markes will be using its delivery trucks to distribute a variety of items produced at NYSID worksites to businesses throughout the state.
“We definitely needed a partner,” said Maureen O’Brien, president and CEO of NYSID. “That became very clear during the pandemic when there were supply chain issues, and we wanted to find a partner [who] would be willing to work with us on prioritizing the employment of individuals with disabilities.”
Hill & Markes will be transporting over 13,000 orders a year packaged and/or fabricated by employees with disabilities, O’Brien said. Some of these products include toilet paper, Purell, paper towels, and janitorial supplies.
A partnership just made sense because the delivery routes of the two organizations overlapped by about 75%, said Jason Packer, chief executive officer of Hill & Markes.
“We are fortunate to be continuing our journey of hiring workers with disabilities,” said Packer. “We started a partnership with Liberty ARC over a decade ago, and [we] will continue with the NYSID partnership.”
With the closure of NYSID’s existing distribution center in Johnstown, all former employees of the distribution center were offered positions at the Hill & Markes center, or transferred to NYSID’s headquarters in Albany, O’Brien said.
NYSID employs about 6,000 New Yorkers at close to 100 ARC worksites across the state. O’Brien said she anticipates that the partnership will allow NYSID employees to produce a wider amount of goods, and as a result, more individuals with disabilities will be employed.
“I’m happy to start a new family through Hill & Markes,” said Ryan Bellows of Gloversville, who has been a NYSID employee since 2010. Bellows recently shifted to working as a floor truck operator at the Hill & Markes distribution center. “My days go by quicker now,” he said. “I’ll be making a lot more money now, and I can pay my bills a lot easier [instead of] going paycheck to paycheck.”
Another reason Hill & Markes was eager to partner with NYSID was its newly outlined goal of having 25% of its labor force include people with disabilities, military, veterans and people of color; 25% of its business partnerships with people from those same groups; and a 25% reduction in its carbon footprint, all by 2025.
Both organizations will be able to reduce their carbon footprint by consolidating their delivery trucks, and using the additional inventory provided by NYSID to ensure that all trucks are fully loaded, Packer said.
“We saw this collaboration as an opportunity to innovate the work required to ensure that our products would be distributed in a timely fashion throughout the state, while at the same time creating much more efficiency [through] the opportunity to promote growth and expansion and create jobs for people with disabilities,” said Stanfort Perry, chairman of the board at NYSID.
The partnership “sets an example for the entire state. It represents a step forward for inclusivity in our community,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. “People with disabilities serve an essential role in our workforce, and they deserve a chance to succeed.”
According to O’Brien and Packer, the organizations’ cooperation will allow Hill & Markes to fulfill its social corporate responsibility, while helping NYSID to re-focus on its primary mission of employing as many individuals with disabilities as possible.