Lighthouse for the Blind (Seattle)

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Pat O'Hara, Seattle Lighthouse

Pat O’Hara, general manager of
operations at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, oversees a factory that
provides more than 200 jobs to visually impaired workers.

The Seattle Lighthouse For the
Blind
describes its manufacturing operations as having a double bottom line:
revenues and employment for the blind.

The numbers suggest Lighthouse,
founded in 1918, is succeeding at generating positive results for both.

Lighthouse has a long history in
manufacturing, producing brooms, baskets and neckties. Today, its manufacturing
operations are considerably more high tech, both in how they operate
(manufacturing capabilities include such advanced technologies as waterjet
cutting and CNC—computed numerically controlled—machining, as well as an
emphasis on lean-manufacturing principles) and the products they produce.
Manufacturing employment jobs have grown to more than 200, with sales of more
than $50 million a year.

Lighthouse has been a Boeing
supplier since 1953; in a speech several years ago, its president, Kirk Adams,
estimated it produced 60,000 parts a month for the aerospace company. Now, it’s
expanding sales of aerospace products for clients other than Boeing, from
$2,000 annually to more than $2 million in five years. It also makes a line of
office products, canteens and hydration backpacks, selling them through an
online store.

More employment is coming: The
Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee has launched a program with Lighthouse
in which the visually impaired are enrolled in machinist training.

Lighthouse has been taking its act
on the road, launching Inland Northwest Lighthouse in Spokane in September
2008. That manufacturing program has 33 employees making wallboard, file
folders, binders, paper trimmers and easels. Annual revenue has already hit
$2.7 million—a goal Lighthouse reached in one year instead of the projected
three.

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