Ditech representative meets SCTWA board members

Friday, November 14, 2014

By Karen Hall

Editor

Holding a Breakfast Brainstorm meeting at Columbia State Community College this week, members of the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance board were pleased to welcome the operations manager of Ditech Testing, Lewisburg's newest industry.

Gerry Gildart was introduced by Lewisburg's Director of Economic Development Greg Lowe.

"They've purchased the building, and are renovating it," Lowe said. "It's nothing but nice."

This was not one of Lowe's code-named projects, but came through a commercial broker, and has been in the works since Ditech representatives visited different sites in the southeast in January.

"Our clients were asking us to set up at this end of the country," Gildart explained. "We chose Lewisburg because of the location, and the building that suited our needs. Location is a big thing, but we've discovered a lot of other pluses."

The building is in the Industrial Park, and used to house Hyperion Seating.

Gildart said his son, Jason Gildart, is vice president of the company which refurbishes and re-certifies propane tanks. Gerry Gildart had his own construction company and traveled all over Canada, and his son persuaded him to come out of semi-retirement to set up and look after the Lewisburg facility.

"We feel welcome here," said Gildart. "Everybody's so nice. It's a great, great feeling. We're just thrilled."

As a Canadian, though he's now a US citizen, Gildart is a big hockey fan, and he is already cheering for the Nashville Predators.

Career Technical Director Lyn Stacey asked what skills would be necessary to get a job at Ditech.

"It's kind of a specialty thing," answered Gildart. "We will be training them. We will have people come from our operation in Canada to train them.

"It's about how you treat the people," he continued. "We like to do cross training. It's very important to make employees feel part of what you're doing."

Gildart said they have already hired County Commissioner Sheldon Davis to head their maintenance department.

He was pleased to learn the Career Center can assist with on-the-job training, and there are also training funds for GED graduates.

He got a warm welcome and a round of applause, but had to leave before the meeting was over to get back to work.

Also welcomed was the new director of Marshall County Memorial Library Jennifer Pearson, who said she was excited to be here, and added the library is especially important because of the growth of information online, which people can access for free from the library's computers.

"We'll be working with you a lot," Pearson told SCTWA board members. "I'm sure you can teach us a lot. We'll open the library for any kind of program you want to do."

"We love our libraries," exclaimed Jan McKeel, SCTWA Area 10 executive director.

Discussing jobs and unemployment, board member Dave Kennedy of Southern Carton said, "There are plenty of jobs out there -- people are just not applying for them. Everyone's hiring now."

Lowe attributed this to several factors: cultural (some young people here have seen their parents laid off from two or three factory jobs), the drug problem, and wage issues.

He is trying to counteract this with training, and with getting into the schools and talking to children as young as third graders about jobs in industry.

Stacey suggested posting job opportunities in the high schools, especially in the spring, when seniors have to think seriously about what they'll do after graduation.

"Our kids just don't know what opportunities are out there," said Stacey.

"Manufacturing Day was well received at MCHS," said Lowe. "Over 50 percent of the students visited a booth, and they were asking really good questions. We're going to do it again in April."

"Three industries have agreed to go into the schools in the spring," added Mike Wiles, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board.

The meeting lasted 30 minutes longer than scheduled, and everyone left feeling satisfied with the opportunity to exchange ideas with their peers.