By Jesse Wood
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Sec. Don van der Vaart and his staff visited Watauga Opportunities, Inc. on Wednesday to learn more about the operation in Boone that helps people with barriers to employment make a living.
Part of the focus of the visit was Watauga Opportunities improved productivity and energy savings achieved by partnering with Waste Reduction Partners, which is a state-sponsored technical assistance group under the umbrella of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
By going through the Waste Reduction Partners program, Waste Opportunities improved productivity of its medical production line by 25 percent and made changes to reduce energy costs.
Watauga Opportunities designs and manufactures thermoform packaging materials on Greenway Road in Boone.
According to Watauga Opportunities 2015-16 fall newsletter, The Works, employees with Watauga Opportunities have earned $6.34 million in wages since 1994, which turns into to an estimated $2.54 million in estimated reduction in government subsidies.
The organization is now more than 40 years old.
“From our standpoint (DEQ), I’m impressed with their ability to work with our group in terms of identifying energy savings as well as savings in the manufacturing process,” van der Vaart told High Country Press during his tour. “Outside of my duties with the Department of Environmental Quality, I am very impressed with the ability of this organization to bring folks into our society, and it’s just really exciting for me. But that’s purely on a personal note.”
See photos of the tour below: