By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Community outreach — both local and distant — is on steady gain among the workforce of Zodiac Aerospace in Gainesville.
Officials of the seating company formerly known as Weber Aircraft have marshaled efforts from plant and administrative employees to raise at least $20,000 for the American Red Cross, whose regional outposts are assisting victims of recent tornadoes in Granbury, Cleburne and Moore, Okla.
This fundraising should be complete during the next month and joins the annual donation pool the company already generates as a “pacesetter” company of Cooke County United Way, benefiting local agencies in need.
And Mark Withrow, Zodiac Aerospace vice-president and general manager, said these efforts are examples of what his company and others in the county should provide more of and whenever possible.
“Good leaders should take the opportunity to lead, and as big business, that’s what we’re going to do.” he said.
Withrow cited his company as the largest employer in the county, boasting a workforce of nearly 2,000 under one roof. He said Zodiac Aerospace is already a steady source of outreach funds derived from benefits and drives, such as the United Way participation.
“We’re trying to humanize it,” he said.”At the end of the day, it’s about people. Certainly we’re here for business, but there’s the tertiary piece of it, which is people. Without people, you have nothing.”
But he also admitted that his company, for what it is, could have even bigger local impact as a benefactor.
“We don’t think we’re doing a good enough job of having that exposure,” he said. “We don’t just employ two thousand people here; we give back, and we do it in a way where it’s not self-effacing. We see a need and we rally to take care of that — both internally, when an employee needs assistance, or externally, like with the Red Cross.”
Withrow added that in the months to come, some Zodiac employees will participate in Habitat for Humanity housing projects in Moore, Okla. And as with the United Way pacesetter roundup, other local corporations are invited to get involved.
“Let’s collaborate and see how we can mutually benefit people in need,” he said. “Some are certainly not going to be able to donate as much as we do and we absolutely understand that. But every five hundred dollars and every thousand dollars and every donation of time helps out.”
Teaming with other agencies
Withrow cited the new entrance sign outside Zodiac Aerospace, which promotes not only Zodiac and the smaller companies in its industrial park but also Gainesville Municipal Airport. The sign came with a $40,000 bill, he said, and Zodiac paid all of it.
“It was a really good collaboration point between the city and us,” Withrow said.
Another recent example of teamwork between Zodiac and the public sector is a new $800,000 federal and state grant that will provide training for up to 1,200 new and existing employees. From his point of view, Withrow added, his company is evolving as a corporation while retaining the “homegrown” base of employees.
“I would say there are some really good things going on that would excite the local public,” he said. “We’re bringing in funding, we’re investing in our population and we’re making a higher-skilled population base within Cooke County.”
Withrow said Zodiac’s donation to the American Red Cross should be formally recognized within the next month.