Posted: Jan 31, 2013 4:53 PM by Jessica Holley - firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: Jan 31, 2013 5:42 PM
CORPUS CHRISTI - Each year we send hundreds if not thousands of dollars to the federal government. The government then takes our money and spends it. But how is the federal government spending our money here in the Coastal Bend?
In the first nine months of last year, the federal government spent more than $236 million of tax money with the Valero Energy Company here in the Corpus Christi area, those numbers come from the website fedspending.org. The year before, Valero received $900 million in tax dollars. But at this point we can only guess exactly what the money paid for since Valero refuses to offer any information about what taxpayers are getting for their money.
Valero Executive Director, Bill Day says "We do not discuss details of contracts for proprietary reason, it's company policy,".
While Valero Energy is tight lipped about the tax money they get, The South Texas Lighthouse for the Blind had sales of more than $16 million to the government in 2012. Here's a look at what your money bought.
Those who work here call it one of Corpus Christi's hidden secrets, an old beer distribution warehouse transformed into a workplace for those who are visually impaired.
"We secure government contracts and manufacture a variety of products for the government," says President and CEO Nicky Ooi.
The South Texas Lighthouse for the Blind employs 178 people, of which 54 are blind. They work four days a week, ten hours a day. Two of the top products made are mail trays for post offices nationwide. Last fiscal year, employees made 9 million of these trays. And it's other big product, three ring binders for the government, which brought in $10 million in sales. South Texas Lighthouse for the Blind has more than 10 contracts with the government, mainly through the Department of Defense and the U.S. Postal Service. This is thanks to the government's AbilityOne program, which provides employment for people with disabilities.
"Anything that the government buys we get preference, first preference. We produce a product for fair market price and a good quality that the government will buy from us" says Ooi.
Its finished products are shipped all across the country from as far north as Alaska to down south in Puerto Rico and even a few products go overseas. And these products are made by the skilled hands of their employees many of which are visually impaired to some degree.
"We evaluate them and we look at what their strength and weaknesses are and we try to fit them into a position where they are capable of performing their job," say Ooi.
22-year-old Eddie Martinez who lost his vision at the age of 14, but today he has a job that provides benefits and pay above minimum wage. "I thought I was just going to be at home with a disability check" says Martinez.
Today, he is now trained and able to perform many of the manufacturing tasks and has dreams now to be a supervisor. "I am capable of doing something with my life and for other people," says Martinez.
With the company's mission, providing employment and empowerment to people who are visually impaired, South Texas Lighthouse for the Blind is giving those who are enabled a chance to provide for themselves.
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