You almost have to believe in miracles to think that a U.S. company can prosper in the demanding textiles industry. Especially in a global market crowded with cheap labor and cutthroat competition.
But if you have a hard time believing in miracles, meet Benny Best.
Best was over 40 when he got his first job, an entry-level position punching holes in the pockets of military uniforms at RLCB in Raleigh. It’s a fairly unremarkable job, except for the fact that Best is blind. Five years later, he runs some of the company’s most complex machinery.
A Whole New World
“I never knew I could work,” he says. “When I lost my vision, that was basically the end of my life. I don’t know why they hired me. But it opened up a whole new world.”
RLCB has made a business out of opening doors, employing 150 blind and visually impaired adults who manufacture everything from pillows and mattresses to fleece jackets and tactical gear for the U.S. Army. The company also runs a full-service call center that provides technical support, market intelligence and Web chat for business clients.
The secret behind RLCB’s success isn’t just remarkable employees. For the past three years, the company has worked with the Industrial Extension Service at NC State University to foster innovation, improve efficiencies and strengthen its market position.
Seems Like Magic
The results speak for themselves. In the past 18 months RLCB has increased revenue by $4 million, added 40 jobs and opened up a research and development department to maintain its competitive edge. For longtime employees, like Best, RLCB now offers a greater measure of job security.
RLCB’s relationship with NC State may feel like magic, says CEO Janet Griffey, but it’s based on a practical concept: “Change is inevitable, growth is intentional.”