Buzzwords like win-win get bandied about the work world a lot, often without merit. But sometimes the win-win is real.
By DIANE STAFFORD
The Kansas City Star
Theres an example working in an east Kansas City industrial park at Moly-Cop USA. Her name is Starla Potter. Shes 21 and flourishing in a job, and in a way that no one would have imagined a year ago.
In fact, shes not just one half of a win. Shes more like one fourth of a win-win-win-win:
A previously homeless young mother is well employed. A social service agency has a client success story. A company found a good worker. And the community at large has one more productive resident.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
One day last autumn, Norm Thomas, a maintenance supervisor at the Moly-Cop manufacturing operation, set the stage for the multiple wins. The plants leadership team was discussing a job vacancy when Thomas nudged Moly-Cop USA president Steve Ornduff.
Youre on the Sheffield Place board. Why not contact them? Thomas said.
Ornduff did. He called Kelly Welch, executive director at Sheffield Place, a transitional living program that serves homeless women at a facility just a few blocks from Moly-Cop.
The social service agencys very name Sheffield harkens to the Sheffield Steel Works and the former Armco Steel Co., where Moly-Cop had its roots. Many Kansas Citians still refer to the industrial valley as the Sheffield neighborhood.
History and vicinity aside, Ornduff was happy to try to solve a company need by doing a social good.
Wed tried to fill the spot with temporary help agencies because we werent sure we wanted to hire another employee yet, but we were disappointed with every candidate from the temporary services, Ornduff said.
At Sheffield Place, Welch jumped at the chance to suggest possible workers from among the women who were receiving life and work-readiness counseling at the agency.
We mentioned the opportunity to a couple of our clients, Welch said. But when the case manager called Starla, she said, OK. Ill be there, and she was here within an hour to fill out the application.
Starla Potter was hired at Moly-Cop in October, initially for temporary work at a new entry gate to the plant. Her job was to process truck traffic into the secure facility, which makes hot forged steel grinding balls used by mining companies in processing gold and copper ore.
Ornduff soon found what Welch had come to appreciate about the young woman: Shes a go-getter. Shes smart.
In short order, Potter proved adept at handling the truckers and the required safety checklist she had to administer before they could enter the plant. She proved to be dependable, no-nonsense, and in command of several computer programs learned in high school and at Penn Valley Community College.
The forces came together in a perfect hand up rather than a hand out.
By the end of December, Potter had worked her way into a full-time job as operations clerk at Moly-Cop, earning more than double the money she formerly made in a doughnut shop. Instead of minimum-wage work the kind of job landed by most people who have little to no experience Potter found the holy grail of job seekers.
She gets paid vacations, and Moly-Cop covers 100 percent of the health care premium costs for its employees, a rarity in todays work world.
Potter also has overcome two of the biggest barriers to employment: transportation, and child care for her 2-year-old daughter.
I have a car, she beams. I have day care.
And in the small gate office where she works, Potter has affixed a small sign: Welcome. May all who enter as guests leave as friends.
* * * * *
At Sheffield Place, like other transitional living programs in the Kansas City area, the goal is for clients to become self-sufficient. That means getting a job and independent living ability.
Our mission is to work with homeless moms with kids, Welch said. Among our clients, most have had lots of trauma in their lives or a mental health diagnosis of some kind. More than half have no high school diploma or GED. About three-fourths of them have some kind of substance abuse. About half have had domestic abuse.
Potter requests privacy about why she became a Sheffield Place client. She does allow Welch to share that she was pregnant when she arrived and that she stayed there from May 2011 to October 2012, when she graduated from the transitional living site.
Welch said Potter, despite being Sheffield Places youngest resident, easily filled leadership roles while there. She also brought a drive to improve her lot in life, finished the high school classes shed abandoned, and took computer science classes at Penn Valley.
We gave her a chance to be successful, but she had the maturity level to do it, Welch said.
Ornduff emphasized that Moly-Cop made no sacrifices to hire or promote Potter.
She has a very important job, with her added records and shipping clerk responsibilities, Ornduff said. We are getting lots of added value from her, and we have a great employee who wants to grow with the company.
* * * * * *
That Moly-Cop could provide the hand up to Potter is itself a turnaround story. The steel operation was reborn out of the bankruptcy that shuttered most parts of the former Armco plant in Kansas City.
Moly-Cop as a trademark had been introduced in the 1930s for the grinding balls sold to the mining industry. The name came from molybdenum and copper, two kinds of mining customers. Production of Moly-Cop balls continued in Kansas City through Armcos merger into the former GS Industries.
Today, the Kansas City plant turns out those steel balls, ranging in diameter from 1½ inches to 6 inches, to the tune of 150,000 tons of steel a year. Trains and trucks transport products in and out of the Moly-Cop plant under specific safety and security regulations.
That enhanced safety and security led to creation of Potters job. It was a staffing need that Ornduff was well-equipped to understand. As a mechanical engineer whod worked at Armco for 20 years, Ornduff had managed the grinding media department where the Moly-Cop balls were forged.
After Armco/GS Industries declared bankruptcy in 2001, the plant was closed for nearly two years. Under the bankruptcy, GS Industries divested Moly-Cops international plants. Ornduff became part of an employee and outside investor group that bought the remaining grinding media assets at the Kansas City plant in 2002.
The Kansas City works re-opened in 2003 as American Grinding Systems LLC. A year later, American Grinding was bought by Australias Smorgon Steel LLC, which in 2007 was taken over by Australias OneSteel Ltd. In 2010, OneSteel acquired the global grinding media businesses that had continued operating under the Moly-Cop name.
In 2011, the Kansas City operation came full circle. OneSteel renamed its U.S. grinding business Moly-Cop USA. OneSteel subsequently renamed itself Arrium, which makes the Kansas City Moly-Cop plant an Arrium company.
Some of the 65 employees at the Kansas City site, like Ornduff, are former Armco workers. That corporate legacy, including union memberships, helped shape the current employee pay and benefits structure, he said.
We work hard to give the best benefits possible, Ornduff said. Its the way to get and keep the best people.
One of them, he said, works out in Moly-Cops gate house.
To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.