Anniston Army Depot recognizes Chamber for Operation 1st RATE
Anniston Army Depot Commander Col. Brent Bolander presented certificates to: (from left to right): Bill Curtis, executive director of the East Alabama Planning and Development Commission; Demetrius Doss, Operation 1st RATE staff member; Jason Alderman, Chamber Chair-Elect; Emily Clark, Operation 1st RATE staff member; Julia Segars, Chamber of Commerce chairman; Kelley Bell, Operation 1st RATE staff member; Donna Fathke, senior economic developer for the EARPDC; Sherri Sumners, executive director of the Calhoun County Chamber Foundation; and John Blue, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation Board. Also pictured are Bolander, far right, and Tim Garrett, site project manager for the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, third from right.

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Depot Commander Col. Brent Bolander recognized nine individuals involved in the success of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce's Operation 1st RATE here Sept. 3.

Operation 1st RATE, which stands for Ready, Able, Trained Employees, has a two-fold mission. First, it strives to develop a comprehensive, multi-agency economic development plan for the Calhoun County area in order to grow new jobs locally. Its second, and equally important, goal is to place individuals in new positions with the first priorities being displaced workers of the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility and Anniston Army Depot.

Since standing up Operation 1st RATE in 2011, more than 500 individuals throughout Calhoun County found new jobs through the program.

"Jobs change lives," said Sherri Sumners, executive director of the Calhoun County Chamber Foundation. "It has been very gratifying to sit across the table from someone and help them find employment."

Operation 1st RATE began with the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, a tenant on the depot. Tim Garrett, the site project manager for the facility, saw the future need to match a skilled workforce with employers throughout the region.

"I got the door open and showed the Chamber the way in," said Garrett.

The program's funding came through a Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment grant, which was recently renewed, ensuring Operation First Rate is funded through February 2015.

Throughout the entire process -- from inception to implementation -- the program has been a collaborative effort between the Chamber and its local defense partners.

"I sincerely appreciate the efforts of the entire team," said Bolander. "We have a great relationship with the Chamber. Because of it, they saw the need and immediately jumped in to offer job placement services."

One of the greatest capabilities of the program, according to Julia Segars, the Chamber's chairman and vice president for Alabama Power's Eastern Division, was Operation 1st RATE's ability to catalog the skill sets of individuals throughout the county. This enabled the chamber not only to match applicants with existing jobs in the area, but also to recruit employers.

"Working with the depot's commander and workforce has been important to us," said John Blue, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation Board. "We consider ourselves a partner with the depot and it was so important we detailed the Chamber president to this project."

Shortly after it stood up, Operation 1st RATE established a satellite office at the Quintard Mall, ensuring easy access to everyone in the county who needed the service.

Also, during the first several months of the program, to accommodate the installation's workforce, a satellite office was established at the Hard Drive Café in the Nichols Industrial Complex. There, employees received résumé assistance and were able to search for available jobs.

Page last updated Thu September 12th, 2013 at 00:00