Back in May, we spotlighted Outlook Nebraska, one of the winners of the Greater Omaha Business Excellence Awards. Outlook Nebraska took home the prize for excellence and progress in innovation, a coveted award meant for those truly making a difference in the community and state.
And if the Omaha nonprofit keeps heading along at the same pace, it looks like they’re headed in the same direction for next year’s award season. For those unfamiliar with Outlook Nebraska, they’re the state’s largest employer of the blind and visually impaired. They support them by creating jobs with a full line of recycled tissue and towel products, manufactured entirely by the blind and visually impaired community in Nebraska.
In a recent article by the Omaha World-Herald, staff writer Steve Jordan reported that the company is aiming to expand their outreach and increase production and jobs with their new commercial line of paper hand towels and bathroom tissue. This new line comes hand in hand with a $2.3 million dollar capital campaign to transform one of their manufacturing facilities into a center geared towards helping Omaha’s 15,000 blind and visually impaired citizens. The center will reportedly help them gain independence, enrich their educations, and hopefully find better and more personally satisfying careers.
To create the line, workers use special equipment and voice recognition software. The mission to improve the quality of life for blind and visually impaired means that the company may take a different path than a normal corporation. Jeff Simons, a sales account executive at Outlook Nebraska, told the World-Herald that “Outlook’s focus on jobs means different decisions than by for-profit businesses. For example, if a new machine might eliminate jobs, Outlook will likely stick with the jobs rather than replacing the equipment.”
Outlook’s unique business model is a gutsy combination of social activism and capitalism, toeing the line as a nonprofit. Melissa Gasnick-Cloeter, a partner in distribution expert Mag2Paper, says that nonprofits must maintain financial integrity while fulfilling their social missions.
“Outlook is a real unique organization. They’re nonprofit, but they also produce a product that has a commercial capability,” Gasnick-Cloeter told the World-Herald. “They have to operate as a manufacturer. The more bathroom tissue they sell, the more people they can employ. There’s a direct connection between the commercial end and fulfilling the mission of the nonprofit organization.”
It’s exciting for the manufacturing community to see a company so invested in the social welfare of the community, and one who has found the way to create jobs and profit while working to advance the cause of a minority group. Manufacturing can change lives and do so much good for those in need, and we’re lucky to have companies like Outlook Nebraska working hard to make sure that happens! Manufacturing has meaning, and we’re excited to see how Outlook continues to grow, change, and impact the world.
Photo credit: James R. Burnett/The World-Herald