Jack Bilotta, Angela Curry, Mary Ann Stinson

Jack Bilotta, plant manager for Milwaukee Tool; Angela Curry, executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation, and Mary Ann Stinson, plant manager at HDW, meet Friday to discuss details of attracting 54 laid-off HDW workers to apply for positions at Milwaukee Tool.

Thanks to Milwaukee Tool and its growing presence in Greenwood, the week’s bad news turned into good news Friday for 54 workers en route to unemployment when Hardware Distribution Warehouses Inc. announced it was closing.

Jack Bilotta, plant manager at Milwaukee Tool, was the hero of the day for the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation when he stepped forward and offered to hire any qualified employee of HDW immediately.

That was the lift that EDF Executive Director Angela Curry was looking for — “something positive coming out of a negative situation.”

“Our hope is we can fit everybody into the organization,” Bilotta said.

Unlike what HDW was experiencing before closing, Bilotta said business is booming for his company’s operations in Greenwood, where the 865 current employees repair electric drills and saws under warranty as well as manufacture blades and other parts. The company has expanded from its original operations to cover 440,000 square feet in three buildings.

“The business is growing so fast it’s impossible in three years that we’re going to be able to service all the tools over here,” he said.

A challenge for Milwaukee Tool is attracting people who want to work, according to Bilotta. HDW plant manager Mary Ann Stinson, who has worked for 45 years at HDW, agreed and said her company worked with employees to turn around attendance problems and make them reliable and productive.

“If they’ll come to work, we can work it out,” Bilotta said.

Curry said the EDF has worked with employers to find employees who would commute from outside the county and noted 4,000 people commute to jobs inside Leflore County each day. She also said the Mississippi Department of Employment Security is sending a team to help displaced workers with unemployment claims, continuing education and workforce training, resumé writing, and entrepreneurship.

Families First for Mississippi, with facilities on Huron Street, offers training for employees to develop those “soft skills” that include building positive habits, such as showing up for work on time, filling out proper forms, planning for commutes and preparing for other situations that may interfere with doing their work.

Stinson said some of the HDW employees had been former Milwaukee Tool employees who had been fired for poor work attendance and other problems, but she asked Bilotta to take another look as HDW had worked with them to build better habits. Bilotta said it was the company’s policy to talk with former employees who separated for the company more than six months ago.

“We have opportunities for people,” Bilotta said, indicating it was up to the workers to seize the opportunity.

“I’m just happy to know we may have a solution for some of these people,” Curry said.

Those who do make the move won’t have to figure out a new way to work; the Milwaukee Tool plant is directly across Sycamore Avenue from HDW in the Greenwood-Leflore Industrial Park.

“I think working together we can made this so it doesn’t have an impact on people at all,” Bilotta said. “They can leave one workplace on Friday and start with us on Monday.”

Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or gmaliska@gwcommonwealth.com.


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