ProAct names manufacturing, environmental, retail and hospitatlity firms Employers of the Year

Eagan nonprofit chooses Carquest, Cub Foods, EnviroBate, Hilton Garden Inn and IMV Technologies USA as exemplary work partners that provide job opportunities

ProAct “Employer of the Year” honors went to organizations that have bettered the lives of people with disabilities through employment opportunities and partnership with the Eagan-based nonprofit, which announced four winners from a variety of industries at its Annual Recognition Banquet.

A record crowd of more than 600 turned out at the Prom Center in Oakdale for the event, emceed by meteorologist Laura Betker from KARE 11 television. Top employers are Carquest, Cub Foods, Envirobate, Hilton Garden Inn and IMV Technologies USA.

“Having work to do provides a sense of well-being and satisfaction to all of us,” said ProAct President and CEO Steven Ditschler. “And, employers play a large role in our internal and external operations as we serve people with disabilities, who provide a product or service that benefits others.”

ProAct’s Employers of the Year covered four distinct categories: Supported Employment, Community Employment, Business Partner and Vocational Partner.

The Supported Employment designation yielded two winners, Carquest and Cub Foods. The relationship with the auto parts store developed over 25 years, and culminated with the recent retirement of a ProAct individual. “They have provided him with equal opportunities as an employee of Carquest and supported him as his skills grew,” said Sherri Coons, a ProAct designated coordinator. Leaders of the auto parts store also threw their longtime employee “the retirement party of a lifetime,” she said.

The second Supported Employment honoree, Cub Foods at Town Centre in Eagan, hired ProAct consumer Teddy Taft to work at the meat counter earlier this year. Taft also cleaned the store. Designated Coordinator Matt Briggs made regular visits to the grocer, and found that managers there had helped Taft to thrive in his various tasks. Taft died unexpectedly in August, and was honored posthumously with an Employment Success Award.

Winning recognition for the Community Employment area, Hilton Garden Inn in Eagan shined as this year’s honoree. ProAct sends housekeeping crews on a daily basis to support Hilton’s employment needs, explained ProAct Community Relations Manager Cathy McCoy. It also employs a ProAct laundry crew each day.

Vocational Partner winner EnviroBate is an environmental contractor that provides hazardous material abatement and other services. Individuals from ProAct experience vocational assessments or work tryouts at the Minneapolis business in a completely integrated setting, explains Anna Shields, a ProAct vocational specialist. “EnviroBate has been extremely flexible and understanding with us,” she said. “They have supported ProAct and the individuals we serve, providing employment experiences to individuals looking to enter the workforce.”

The winner in the fourth category, Business Partner, is IMV Technologies USA, an international company with offices in Maple Grove. IMV is a returning award recipient. “It’s more of an honor for us,” said Eric Salonen, who serves in supply chain and operations with IMV. “It’s humbling to be able to partner with them, a mutually beneficial relationship.” ProAct has processed more than a million swine insemination straws for IMV and employs an extensive quality control process, explains ProAct Sales Manager Greg Pechman.

The nonprofit is headquartered in Eagan and has additional operations in Red Wing, Shakopee and Zumbrota, and in Hudson, Wis. Its mission is to provide person-centered services that enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities in the areas of employment, life skills and community inclusion.