Joe Prischak is a man of action who appreciates that quality in others. As chairman of The Plastek Group, he was pleased that Richmond County Commission Chairman Kenneth Robinette and Richmond Community College President Dr. Dale McInnis brought RCC Vice Presidents Dr. Anthony Clarke and Steve Smith to Plastek’s home office in Erie, Pennsylvania to see how the county and college could better serve Plastek’s plant in Hamlet.
“I was very honored and excited about their making the trip. It is a true sign of cooperation between RCC, Richmond County, Penn State, and Plastek. When we located the plant in Hamlet, it was to be near a customer who wanted to cut shipping costs. While the location was appropriate, we found there were not enough qualified, experienced people to do our type of work. After getting together with RCC, a program was established, training was started, and it seems to be working well as far as getting our employees trained properly,” said Prischak.
Plastek has made a pace-setter donation to the capital campaign for expansion of the Forte Building, which houses the college’s engineering and industrial programs. More classroom and lab space means the college can develop greater opportunities for students and have a location where training for industry can develop the educated workforce necessary for an industry to be successful.
“Plastek’s support of the Forte project is huge,” said McInnis. “It allows us to move forward with numerous projects that will help a greater number of people.”
Prischak’s interest in education led him to assist in founding a plastics engineering program at Penn State University-Behrend in 1989. He opened the doors for RCC to develop an articulation agreement with Penn State that allows students to get their freshman and sophomore years of study at RCC and transfer to the Penn State for their bachelor’s degree. Clarke, vice president for instruction, traveled to the Penn State campus to begin negotiations for the agreement.
“It’s a strong program here and I want to see it become a strong program at RCC. We offer scholarships to our employees and their children in Erie as well as in Hamlet. We always have openings for qualified people in a lot of different categories at Plastek. We want this to succeed,” said Prischak.
RCC anticipates beginning the program next fall.
The trip allowed RCC leaders to sit down with Plastek management from different areas to learn what the college is doing right and to see how the college is missing the mark. Smith, vice president for workforce and economic development, has two programs in his division that offer Plastek employees Six Sigma, safety, forklift, and Excel training. Industry-specific courses regarding plastic injection molding and maintenance are also underway. The talks allow the college to adjust the programs to better serve and support Plastek.
Prischak said they have future plans for expansion, but nothing is definite at this point in time. Again, he said the availability of qualified potential employees is key to the expansion. Taking the classes offered through RCC is one avenue people have of becoming qualified and employed.
Robinette said the trip to Pennsylvania was one of the best and most worthwhile trips he has taken as a commissioner.
“I feel the relationship we have developed with the Prischak family is very good. Spending two days with Joe Prischak and coming away with as much as we did is outstanding. The partnership the college is working on with Penn State, the development of a new curriculum at RCC, and Plastek’s donation for the Forte Building is a huge accomplishment,” said Robinette.
He said Industrial Developer Rick Sago does an excellent job of maintaining contact with local employers, but he was pleased to have had the opportunity to join RCC leaders on their trip.
“To be able to talk with the Prischak’s about Richmond County, where we are and where we are going shows a bright future for us. We were able to have a frank conversation about what our challenges are and how we can do things better. We want to continue developing the quality of our workforce and improve the trainability of people for careers in industry. Everything is getting more high tech every day and requires more skills from employees. To prepare them, we need to look at everything from the public schools through the community college,” said Robinette.
With 300 employees, Plastek is one of the major employers in the county. Helping them maintain the competitive edge in the marketplace means they could expand and employ more citizens. With a local unemployment rate of 12.7 percent, it’s good news to have a partnership between the county and RCC to get people prepared for the workforce.
“RCC is the county’s most valuable tool for economic development. It’s our nucleus. When people want to locate an industry, it’s all about the trained workforce. RCC is invaluable. Their example of working with FerroFab shows them taking the bull by horns and following through on bringing an industry to the county. Helping us go from talks with an industry to them locating and producing their first product in 40 days is unheard of in today’s marketplace. We’re proud to partner with them,” said Robinette.
Working with industry and creating opportunities is an integral part of RCC’s mission.
“We had four goals when we left for Erie, and we made great progress across the board,” said McInnis. “We got their feedback on our training, learned of their possible expansion plans, moved the Penn State partnership forward, and received the lead investment for our Forte project. It was a great success, because, as Joe says, we are all on the same team.”