Custom injection molder Pereles Bros. Inc. of Milwaukee wants the plastics industry and manufacturing in general to be in the mindset of individuals contemplating future careers and goals.
Toward that end, the 86-year-old firm has gotten on board with Wisconsin's newly announced Transitional Jobs Program, an initiative by Wisconsin's Department of Children and Families to train low-income individuals who fall into social categories that might otherwise be overlooked, such as single fathers or young adults coming out of the foster-care system.
“Part of what we look at is what we can do as an employer for people in the area,” said Ted Muccio, president of Pereles, in a July 29 telephone interview. “Our employees are the cornerstone of our longevity and growth. By partnering with the Transitional Jobs Program, we can provide valuable experience to deserving individuals as well as make an investment in the success of our community. They're learning how manufacturing works. They're learning how to get long-term positions.”
Pereles officials view their employees as the company's core. Through management initiatives, the company was able to weather the ups and downs of the Great Recession, said Muccio.
“We've done a good job of maintaining ourselves and providing work to our neighborhood,” he said. “We have a lot of long-term employees. We've been able to get a lot of flexibility out of them. They've understood the economic conditions that we face. We made the necessary adjustments [such as] being more conservative and managing business to the sales levels that we have.”
Wisconsin, like many other Rust Belt states, has struggled with high unemployment. Wisconsin's unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Milwaukee is struggling with a 10 percent unemployment rate, according to Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development.
Pereles, whose specialties include insert molding, two-shot molding and TPE overmolding, has seen an uptick in its business this year. It also does subassembly and finished-product work. During the past two years, officials have focused on moving into larger press sizes. Formerly, the presses weren't any bigger than 350 tons, which limited the company's ability to get business, Muccio said. Now the company is using presses that are upward of 720 tons.
“2010 was a good year, comparable to what we had before” the recession, Muccio said. “We're ahead of the 2010 pace now by about 15-20 percent. 2010 was up 30 percent from ‘09. At the middle of ‘08 we saw the downturn through all of 2009, and then it came back in 2010. This year we'll see a year comparable to ‘03, ‘04, ‘05. We're pleased with our business and we're seeing good results.”
Pereles has gained a few customers and also has seen growth from its organic base. The company also has gone to the more privately held, middle-market-type companies that don't feel that they need or want to go to China, Muccio said.
“They want the close relationships and that has served us well,” he said.
The entire operation has about 75 employees. From the Transitional Jobs Program, Pereles started with 12 and now has five on different shifts.
“At some point, there will be permanent positions available for these folks,” Muccio said.
The program is designed to help individuals acquire new skills and work experience and has been funded for the state of Wisconsin through $34 million from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.