Connecting with the Community and Training the Next Generation

- Joe Pentlicki

Whether your business is based in a large city or a small community like ours, it’s important to be active and support the people and the business environment around you — and donating money isn’t the only way to support your community.

As a business, you can benefit in many ways, ranging from increasing the awareness of your brand or company and its reputation, to improving staff morale and working together on local issues. This is known as corporate social responsibility; it’s a way for companies to benefit while also benefiting society and those around them.

To facilitate better support and engagement in our community, we’ve been opening our breakroom to a local collaborative group that includes businesses, workforce development, K-12 and higher education, and economic development, for monthly meetings.

While these meetings are designed to discuss business issues around the county with the hopes of partnering on solutions, we find the conversations and connections once we leave these meetings to be of even more value. It also offers us the opportunity to talk about what we do and our contribution to feeding a growing global population.

Some of our accomplishments within the group have been introducing and implementing a robust physics program for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in five different rural school districts, securing grant money to provide supplies to engineering and robotics programs within the county, and hosting youth each year for manufacturing tours.

Most recently, through our business group, we’ve been helping kids in local schools connect with internships in the area and learn new skills. I can’t tell you how rewarding this has been on a number of fronts. First, it’s given me and others on our staff the opportunity to meet and engage with motivated high school students, who will be our new hires five and 10 years from now. We also learn from these connections about how they connect, what’s important to them and about their strengths.

Then, through these internships, we and other businesses are able to showcase the business opportunities available right here in La Junta, Colorado. They need to know they don’t have to go to a big city to find a job they would enjoy and great people to work with.

I’ve found that supporting the community is all about making the connections, and in business, connections are invaluable.