Genlyte Thomas saved by hard work

Posted By | February 7, 2002 12:00 am

Kim Swindell Wood
Genlyte Thomas has been a prominent member of the White County business community for almost 40 years. As a major employer of several generations of families, the company has witnessed growth and experienced the threat of plant closure.
However, last Friday a dream came true for the administrative staff and employees at Genlyte Thomas when Tenn. Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Michael Magill announced a grant for Incumbent Worker Training. The $10,000 grant will be utilized for nine company employees in the light fixture production plant to upgrade their skills. These designated employees began their training at Tennessee Technology Center at Crossville in December and will be enrolled for six months.
Steve Woodlee, Operations Manager for the Sparta plant, opened the approximately two-hour reception and luncheon with a presentation on the history of Genlyte Thomas. Woodlee explained the history of the local company and described in detail new projects, which will provide 61 new jobs. “We’re making progress and we’ll survive thanks to the state, city and local governments working together,” said Woodlee. “The training program is helping to improve our skill levels in order for us to better handle the more sophisticated, high-tech machinery and equipment we are currently operating. Our future looks much brighter, and these are the kind of skills that help us grow our business.”
State Representative Charles Curtiss attended the presentation and praised the efforts of the Tenn. Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development for their combined efforts with Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce and local officials. “This facility is one of the oldest in the county and many farms and homes have been paid for from employment at Genlyte Thomas,” said Curtiss. “I want to thank you for recognizing the importance of keeping this plant in operation.”
Magill took his place behind the podium and briefly explained the purpose of the grant. “It makes no sense to not provide money to retrain workers already in the workforce,” said Magill. “The employee training taking place in this company is a prime example of the intent of the Incumbent Training Program.”
Magill continued by saying Genlyte Thomas is the first company in Tennessee to benefit from this pilot program. The Incumbent Worker Training program allows the state to enter into an agreement with an employer to provide training to workers whose skills must be upgraded in order to avert worker dislocation. The state program may provide up to 100 percent of the training costs.
James Daniels, Human Resources Manager, also thanked the Tenn. Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development for working with the local governments and Chamber of Commerce. Daniels said Wallace Austin, president of Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce, was invaluable in bringing the different entities together. “Wallace spearheaded this entire effort, and without his help we doubt we could have gotten this many people to listen to what we were saying,” said Daniels. “We want everyone involved to know the employees of Genlyte Thomas owe you all a debt of gratitude.”
Several individuals representing the Tenn. Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development were in attendance including John Watts, Director Employer Relations; Don Woodlee, Employer Relations Representative; Jan Cheek, District Manager; and Elaine S. Perryman, Director, Employer Training Services. Several other participants included Herd Sullivan, White County Executive; Terry Howard, Chairman White County Legislative Body; George Savage, Chairman White County Industrial Development Board; George Barlow, Mayor City of Doyle; Sharon Guy, Department of Economic and Community Development; and Ralph Northcutt, WIA Area 7 Chairman. Other representatives of Genlyte Thomas included, Millard Cantrell, Senior Industrial Engineer; Shirley Greenwood, Plant Superintendent; and Joanne Gwynn, Operations Controller.
In addition to the Tenn. Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development, the following partners are involved in the project: Tenn. Dept. of Economic and Community Development, White County Government, City of Sparta, Workforce Investment Board for LWIA 7, TVA, local vendors and the Genlyte Thomas employees receiving the training.
See more pictures on page 2C in the February 7 edition of The Expositor.

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