President, Composite Advantage
In 2005, Scott Reeve founded a unique Dayton company called Composite Advantage that specializes in making large structural products for the infrastructure market. Their most visible products are lightweight, low-maintenance bridge decks for vehicle and pedestrian bridges. But Scott is also known as a man who builds bridges to Dayton’s immigrant community. This is his story of how embracing our immigrant population not only grew his business but grew friendships as well.
As we expanded last year, we were looking for manufacturing floor personnel with a good work ethic. The CityWide Development Corporation put me in touch with representatives of the immigrant community and I let them know I was interested in hiring. The response was overwhelming. We got many applications. Once we hired a few people, then we received more applications than we could keep up with. They were grateful for the opportunity and returned the favor by working hard and caring.
The Keys to Success
The initiatives we offer our immigrant workers are really opportunity, communication and respect. First, we give the immigrants an opportunity to work without letting the language and cultural differences be a barrier.
The second item is communication. While all of the immigrants understood basic English, a few of the new employees were very fluent in English so they became the translators for technical instruction and company policies. We made sure that the translators had an open path to management for any issues. We wanted to make sure that any minor items did not become disruptive issues because of language misunderstandings. We translated work instructions and some safety postings into other languages. The technical instructions were not really required; they became proficient at the jobs quickly. We have to be most conscious in making sure that Human Resources aspects are correctly understood; such as pay, vacation, and insurance. We also try to be aware of cultural differences such as food types and religious holidays.
The third aspect is respect. Just because they did not speak English well does not mean they are not an important part of the company. Immigrants are a big part of our work force, making quality products that can compete in a global economy. Once they demonstrate that they know the technical tasks, we let them carry out their jobs with minimal supervision. If they have comments or improvements, we try to listen.
The Benefits of Hiring Immigrants
We have a very productive workforce. Many of these workers were in more highly skilled jobs overseas. Because of the language barrier, there are less job types available. So we have an above-average work force. Eventually, some will move on to higher-level jobs or positions, but that is good for them. Many of these workers live in the neighborhood near our buildings. Some even walk to work which is a reminder of the early days of Dayton and America’s industrial beginnings. Snow days are not an issue for them. It is helpful to know that our employees are in the area keeping an eye on the neighborhood and our buildings.
About Welcome Dayton
I think the initiative is smart as it recognizes the reality of the demographics and migration in this country. From a pure business sense, the City is making itself a good value for a segment of customers: tax-paying residents. It has made a difference in rejuvenating an older part of the city. This is good for all of us who have a stake in the area. We all came here as immigrants at some time and welcoming in new immigrants will start them down the path to their integration into the American culture.