As the end of the year and the holiday season approaches, I want to offer a good news story.
It's in the form of a plastics company helping people rebuild their lives after they get out of prison.
I had the chance to spend a day at plastics additive maker Carolina Color, and see how it takes people who are in prison, trains them and in the process, builds a solid workforce for itself.
Equally, or more importantly for society, it becomes a second chance for the former inmates to rebuild their lives.
We just posted a podcast about the company's efforts for our Plastics News Radio feature that you can listen to, embedded below, or download from iTunes or Soundcloud.
The employees have compelling stories, and I was impressed with their honesty in talking. Many of them remain with the company for years after they leave prison — 17 of the 25 factory floor employees when I visited earlier this year were former inmates.
They talk about how having a solid job helped them establish a work history and build a credit score, letting many of them buy homes soon after they got out of prison.
For one employee I talked with, it created stability that helped him regain custody of his son. Another employee started in prison work release and is now the company's production manager, supervising the shop floor and its 25 people.
CEO Matt Barr says there's a solid business case for the program to help with workforce development, it's not altruism.
But for Carolina Color, it seems like altruism and the bottom line are the same here.
I don't know how widely something like this could be used by other manufacturers. North Carolina's prison system seems to have a well-established work release program, which has got to be a prerequisite.
Still, this is a creative way to help companies tackle workforce challenges.
I started by describing this as a good news story, and it is. I really appreciated the company and employees sharing their experiences.
But as one employee, Kerry Briggs, offered to me, he believes we as society don't do enough to help people who are getting out of prison.
He felt he was one of the lucky ones, that while it's a good news story for him, many others could benefit from similar support that is not available to them.
That's a bigger question than we can handle in a Plastics News podcast, but I'd encourage you to take a listen to what Carolina Color, and its employees, have built.