New Director Sees Challenges, Opportunities for Workshops
“It’s very interesting,” he said. “There’s a lot going on.”
He noted that new representatives are especially numerous in the new legislative session this spring, for example. Both the Missouri Legislature and U.S. Congress will have many new members who may not be familiar with 14(c) regulations and issues or other legislation. “We’ve got to get a feel for what their feelings are on 14(c), on disabilities and a whole host of things. With all of the ‘outsiders’ that are being brought in, it’s a whole new world.”
Gier said it appears likely that there will be significant changes at DESE and in workshops. “The state budget is going to be very interesting,” he said. “There’s a whole new leadership taking place. Apparently, they’re in agreement that there will be some major restructuring.”
One issue involves funding, and one estimate is that some $100 million also needs to be found for state finances. “It makes it hard and, as we know, workshops are strictly general revenue and that pie is only so big. And, that pie is what’s shrinking.”
Gier, who has nearly two decades in logistics and supply, also notes that workshops face challenges in the business world as well. “We’re in an ever-changing business environment,” he noted. “We haven’t stopped the bleeding of manufacturing and the loss of the type of manufacturing that has traditionally helped workshops.”
He sees development of original products and services by workshops as one answer. “I look for a lot of entrepreneurial efforts, especially in the rural and small urban areas,” he said. “Our problem is that managers are wearing so many hats now. They’re forklift drivers, truck drivers, managers, everything—they don’t have time to think out of the box. For years, they worked with that factory across town, but now that factory has been bought out, and they’re pulling out. What does the workshop do now?”One answer is thinking outside the box, something Gier does in his personal life. For 25 years, he’s also been involved in professional wrestling, speaking and announcing.