PORTAGE, Mich — As she hums her favorite tune, Patty Ross is putting in another hard day's work. It's something she's done for the past 20 years and her blindness has not stopped her one bit.
"Too many people in our world think that blind people aren't capable of doing jobs like this," says Ross.
Focus Forward's fulfillment center in Portage has figured that out. The company saw there was a real need for employers to give opportunities to those with disabilities.
"Nationwide, it's a 70 percent unemployment rate for folks that are blind or visually impaired, who are of working age and want to work," says Jonathan Kraker of Focus Forward.
The Portage facility employs 26 individuals who are blind or visually impaired. In addition to packaging, some blind employees assemble furniture.
"Using the power tools, somebody who is blind or visually impaired being able to use the power tools and build the furniture from beginning to end. Typically, people go 'wait a second, why someone who is blind using a power tool.' But they do and they do it incredibly effective, our employees," says Kraker.
And if you think these hard working employees aren't making competitive wages, think again.
"All of our employees start at above minimum wage. They're starting at 10 plus dollars an hour and that's starting wage," says Kraker.
"FocusForward's quick response to our request for help and their ability to come up with an excellent and economical approach to our problem proved to be the reason we chose to work with them.”Blaine Lam, President of Lam & Associates
"In reference to our experience with FocusForward, we have had one  opportunity to utilize your services to date. We found the front-end planning meetings to be thorough, the scheduled work was completed as required and on time, and the pricing seemed fair to both parties.
Based on this quality experience we will definitely keep FocusForward in mind as we consider outside resources to support our business growth."
James Dunston, Cereal City Science
As an e-commerce business, one thing we thought was really cool was how FocusForward implemented a training center to promote professional development and growth by building and enhancing employees’ computer skills. We're very excited to continue working with FocusForward.
We've been really happy with the quality of their work so far, and we hope that both businesses can grow together!
Sam Schriemer, Ippinka
FocusForward made a world of difference in cutting down processing time for our office. This was our first experience working with an outside task force to prepare packages that we would normally handle internally. Throughout the course of the project FocusForward remained responsive, adaptive, and attentive to our needs.
We would recommend FocusForward to anyone searching for an outside solution that is both timely and cost-effectiveShelby Long, Kalamazoo College
I would like to acknowledge FocusForward on their exceptional customer service. The staff was quick in response. Their input in how best to approach the project to positively serve our customers was greatly appreciated.
We truly value our working relationship with FocusForward over the years and certainly look forward to working with them for years to come.Vica Gutierrez, Four Points by Sheraton