Lott Industries expanding into food service industryWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Michele Jurek, Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
After 58 years, Lott Industries is expanding into the food service industry. Lott employs individuals with developmental disabilities and is affiliated with the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities (LCBDD). Nearly 500 people currently work at its two facilities on Hill Avenue in Toledo and Holland Road in Maumee. The nonprofit also trains employees to work on site at businesses throughout the community. Over the years, Lott has placed thousands of workers into jobs in the community in a variety of industries.
Its building on Hill Avenue has a kitchen that was originally built as a training center, but Lott employees were too busy working with Ford and other businesses to use the kitchen for training. Instead, it has been used as a regular kitchen by an outside vendor who comes in to prepare lunch for the employees. But in October, Lott will begin training some of its employees to prepare and serve lunch to other employees.
“Our goal is to be more of a training facility where we teach individuals different jobs to build their skill sets so we can hopefully find them a job in the community,” said Tim Menke, Lott Industries’ sales manager. “With the kitchen, we will be training people in things like food preparation, cleaning, doing dishes — everything they would need to know to work at a restaurant so they can be placed there.”
Lott has hired a consultant to guide it through the licensing and nutrition aspects and a kitchen manager to oversee the business side of this venture. It is also bringing in habilitation coordinators from the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities to train personnel.
“The kitchen was built and opened a decade ago with the intent of training our individuals in the food services,” said Dan Clemens, chief operating officer of Lott Industries. “In-sourcing the entire operation to combine the recently hired Lott food experts with the current LCBDD staff that successfully trains individuals every day at Lott Industries will guarantee success.”
Eventually the food service training will branch out to feed outside guests. Lott hosts some community events and small conventions at its facilities, and they would like to train employees to serve the people that attend these events.
“We are very excited to initially offer nutritious meals at a competitive price to both our staff and individuals,” Clemens said. “In the near future, we are hoping to increase our food services to the other Lucas County Board of DD facilities, which will allow us to train and employ even more individuals. Eventually, Lott Industries will be ready to maximize the capacity at the Hill facility kitchen, providing food to local charter schools or boxed lunches at local conferences/venues. Our discussions over the last year with local business leaders and community leaders have been met with optimism. The continuing needs of the community and the mission of Lott Industries will provide a viable future for the individuals that we serve while providing a valuable service to the community.”
Another recent endeavor is Lott’s partnership with Mobile Meals of Toledo. Employees pack weekend lunch bags for students in six Toledo Public Schools and two Toledo Catholic Diocese schools. Mobile Meals has been preparing healthy weekend food packages for these schools for several years, and now Lott Industries is providing the employees to pack the meals. Lott already packs shelf-stable meals for school systems in California and Arizona, so employees had prior experience in this area.
Lott is also beginning a partnership with Sustainable Local Foods, which utilizes science and technology to grow produce in hydroponic indoor gardens 365 days a year. Hydroponic gardens grow plants in a stream of nutrients and water, but without soil, and it’s called hydroponics.
Lott will start by sending 34 employees to work at Erie Street Market from there Sustainable Foods is harvesting, and they will help with the cleaning and sanitizing of the hydroponic planting channels.
The next step will be for Lott employees to grow basil in a nursery-type setting inside the Hill Avenue facility; where Sustainable Local Foods will harvest, pack and send it to local stores to be sold. Within the next 30 days, Lott’s goal is to have Sustainable Local Foods construct a 30-foot by 80-foot hoop house, which is similar to a greenhouse but not quite as hot, on the Hill Avenue property to begin growing lettuce and other vegetables.
After they learn the system, Lott will probably buy its own hoop house and eventually grow vegetables to be used in its own kitchen. These initiatives will help create more local jobs and bring more healthy foods into local markets.
For most of its existence, Lott Industries has worked in light assembly and document destruction, and until 2008 was also heavily involved with the Ford Motor Co. When the economy took a downward turn, hitting the auto industry hard, the Maumee Stamping Plant one of the larger plants Lott Industries worked with, was forced to close.
About 80 percent of Lott’s revenue at the time came was from the auto industry, so the facility had to reinvent itself in 2008. It began partnering with a variety of other businesses in the community to offer services to increase their productivity and profits.
Some of the diverse employment opportunities Lott Industries has taken on over the past few years include sorting hangers for Aramark, making traffic barrels, cones and signs for the construction industry, sorting cardboard for United Container Corporation, sorting pallets for Pepsi, assembling packaging for the pharmaceutical industry, assembling garage door parts for Service Spring Corporation, labeling and sorting fertilizer and lawn care products for The Andersons and many other services for a variety of industries.
Lott Industries continues to look for new businesses to partner with in order to find more jobs in the community for individuals with disabilities.
Branching out into the food preparation and service industry and partnering with other food providers allows Lott to create more jobs and to benefit the community.
For more information, visit www.lottindustries.com.