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SEKRI opens 7th manufacturing facility in Middlesboro


Up to 100 jobs may be created with the opening of Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries (SEKRI) new manufacturing facility location in Middlesboro, KY, Cheryl Sanders, Director of Rehabilitation Services at SEKRI stated.

SEKRI Executive Director Norm Bradley said plans are underway to have the organizations seventh facility open near the end of February in 2019. “We currently have a team of engineers and mechanics gearing up for operations,” Bradley said. “During this process, we want to begin hiring our workforce,” he added.

To fill the workforce needs, SEKRI is hosting a job fair for potential candidates at the Middlesboro City Hall Council Chambers on Tuesday, January 15th from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

SEKRI employs just over 700 people in their current 6 locations in Kentucky and Tennessee. However, according to SEKRI spokesperson Stan Baker, “The most amazing thing that SEKRI offers is employment opportunities to people who fall into the disability spectrum.”

Approximately 75% of SEKRI employees have significant disabilities as deemed by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. SEKRI is a preferred manufacturer for AbilityOne, a government procurement program. Currently SEKRI primarily manufactures clothing and gear for the U.S. military.

“517,000 direct labor hours of work were completed by our disabled workforce last year,” Bradley said. “We did that with less than 1% rejected product,” he added. Baker said, “The difference between our workforce and your standard American workforce is just one simple thing, our employees choose to come to work,” he added. “Many get a disability check and qualify for enough government subsidized programs to meet most of their basic needs. They can stay home. They choose not to. They choose to make their lives better and to serve their communities through gainful employment,” Baker concluded.

“As the new mayor coming in, I had nothing to do with this creation of these jobs but I appreciate all the hard work that went into this endeavor,” Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson said,” He continued, “That said, we will be a great partner to SEKRI to make sure those jobs stay in our area.” Ed Harris, SEKRI Chairman of the Board of Directors stated that he had a goal, “I wanted to bring jobs to Bell County. With SEKRI leading the helm, these jobs will have a tremendous economic impact on the area.” Harris also serves as Executive Director of the Bell County Economic Development Foundation and serves on the Pine Mountain Regional Industrial Authority.

Bradley stated that organization made around 1 million patrol caps and hats for the U.S. military last year. In addition to patrol caps, SEKRI manufactures improved first aid kits (IFAK), fire retardant garments, uniforms and other technical gear to outfit military personnel and keep them safe. SEKRI also has several commercial manufacturing contracts and is always seeking more. “Many products that require technical engineering are better suited for a manufacturing facility with experience in producing technical gear using high performance fabrics,” Bradley said. “We have seasoned engineers and mechanics at each plant who know how to make things happen. We retrofit work spaces for our disabled workforce so they can perform their job duties and tasks effectively. And we use that workforce to manufacture technical gear that can keep our troops from suffering severe burns from improvised explosive device (IED) or just to be safe in general.

SEKRI is a non-profit organization that began in 1971 to meet employment needs for those individuals most would deem unemployable. From those humble beginnings and over many years of growth, the company now has 5 facilities in Kentucky and one facility in Jellico, TN. The organizations seventh facility will be located in Middlesboro, KY

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