Citing a decline in the effectiveness of a federal program that creates jobs for blind and disabled workers, a Wichita, Kan.-based plastics compounder and processor will shut down one of two production facilities June 30.
Nonprofit Envision Inc. will close its Pittsburg, Kan., plant, which makes 30-gallon low density polyethylene can liners, company officials said in a May 27 news release. Opened in 1993, the plant employs eight - five of whom are blind.
Linda Merrill, Envision's president and chief executive officer, said the facility has fallen victim to decentralization of purchasing by federal agencies that were its sole clients under the AbilityOne program, known until 2006 as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act.
Under the act, passed by Congress in 1938, federal agencies are required to purchase certain items from companies that employ the blind or disabled.
``Federal employees often don't know they're violating the law by purchasing plastic bags from other sources,'' she said. ``The [oversight] committee has failed to effectively communicate the mes- sage to federal buyers. Without enforcement, the law has no teeth.''
Committee officials were unavailable for comment.
In a May 29 phone interview, Merrill said Envision is committed to helping its Pittsburg workers transition to other jobs. ``None of them have expressed the desire to relocate, because of family and local ties,'' she said.
In the last year, Merrill said, the plant's output fell to zero.
Envision's Wichita headquarters plant employs about 200 in plastics processing. With annual capacity of about 20 million pounds, that plant makes T-shirt bags, seal closures and sheeting and will add the Pittsburg plant's can liners to its range of high and linear low density PE products, she said.
Envision also operates retail stores at military bases. About one-third of its employees make products sold primarily to the U.S. government.