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Notes from the Field

Profit with a Purpose: Manufacturing Success for Cincinnati’s Second-Chance Citizens

For the formerly incarcerated, questions abound: What is the next step? Where can I get a job? How can I begin rebuilding my life? One Cincinnati company is providing answers.

The views expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

According to Beacon of Hope Business Alliance, each year approximately 2,500 people are released from the Cincinnati Hamilton County Justice Department. For the formerly incarcerated, questions abound: What is the next step? Where can I get a job? How can I begin rebuilding my life? Nehemiah Manufacturing Co. is one place that is providing answers.

Since it was established in 2009, the organization’s mission has been simple: build brands, create jobs, and change lives. Led by Dan Meyer and a team of seasoned Procter & Gamble executives who share a desire to make a positive impact in Cincinnati, Nehemiah Manufacturing Co. partners with companies and entrepreneurs to license and acquire small brands, invent new products, and manufacture goods. The company is committed to bringing manufacturing jobs back to the inner city of Cincinnati, stimulating both community development and economic growth in a place with high unemployment rates and a limited number of entry-level jobs.

A second-chance company, Nehemiah uses its success to serve others by creating a variety of job opportunities for individuals who have challenges finding employment. The company partners with the city of Cincinnati, community leaders, and local social service agencies—such as CityLink Center, St. Vincent de Paul, Jobs Plus and City Gospel Mission—that serve individuals with criminal records, lapses in employment, and other barriers to securing a good job. Today, Nehemiah employs roughly 110 individuals in their production and warehousing operations; more than 85 percent were “hard-to-hire” employees.

To better serve the large number of people returning from incarceration, Nehemiah Manufacturing Co. assembled leaders from businesses, government, the faith community, and social services to launch the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance in 2015. The alliance is a nonprofit that partners with businesses to provide critically needed jobs to those reentering the workforce. In four years, more than 80 employers have joined the business alliance, creating 400 jobs.

But getting a job is just one of the barriers those reentering the workforce face—another one is lack of transportation. Beacon of Hope says less than 20 percent of returning citizens have their own vehicle, so securing a job may not be enough to help them start rebuilding their lives—they also need a way to get to the job, especially if it is not on the bus line.

Recognizing the need to connect workers to their jobs, the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance created a program to help employees who don’t have a reliable way to get to work. The company hires drivers in passenger vans to provide transportation to those who need it to get to work. For the first two weeks in the program, rides are free of charge. After that, as employees have reliable paychecks, the fee is 25 dollars a week; their employers pay a fee for the program, too. The Beacon of Hope Business Alliance’s ultimate goal is to help these employees until they can provide their own transportation.

Eleven years after inception, Nehemiah Manufacturing Co.—and its Beacon of Hope Business Alliance—is accomplishing its mission. With seven brands and more than 80 companies in the alliance, Nehemiah is creating jobs and changing lives for second-chance citizens in the Cincinnati community.