Helping people with disabilities get around is part of BraunAbility’s mission. But making sure they’re represented in the company’s workforce is proving to be a challenge. That’s what BraunAbility officials told Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch and State Representative Doug Gutwein, when they visited the Winamac facility Monday.
President and CEO Staci Kroon said that when it comes to diversity, disability needs to be part of the conversation, “And, candidly, we’re not doing very well as a company. As a nation, we’re probably not doing very well, but certainly, for the business that we’re in, we strive to do much, much better, and that’s one of the reasons for the Carmel office,” she said. “It’s difficult in this community to access that group of people.”
In the next couple months, BraunAbility will be moving its official headquarters to Carmel, followed by the opening of a new technology center there next year. “So we’ll still do all the day-to-day engineering for current products and support here, but all the advanced work and R&D and technology down to Carmel,” Kroon explained. “And that transition will take a few years, really, to get people situated in the right places.”
But even with the expansion to the Indianapolis area, Kroon said that finding people with physical disabilities who want to work for Braun has been more difficult than she anticipated. Company officials asked the lieutenant governor to make sure they’re connected to the right organizations to help place potential employees.
Crouch felt that despite moving some of the operations out of Winamac, the company’s commitment to the local community remains strong. “Governor Holcomb and I believe that rural Indiana is our next great economic development frontier,” she added, “and so we have to unleash that potential and that’s part of what BraunAbility is doing.”
Representative Gutwein also came away impressed. “A great employer, a great business for Pulaski County, a great business for people with disabilities,” he said. “It was a fantastic tour, a fantastic facility, doing great things for our state and, like I say, for folks that are disabled in our country.”
BraunAbility continues to be Pulaski County’s largest employer. About 950 people work at the Winamac campus, according to Human Resources Director Cyndi Garnett, with 30 to 40 percent of them living in Pulaski County.