By Kelley Lane-SivleyOctober 23, 2009
Redstone has its share of high-profile visitors. Last week a presidential appointee visited the post, but he wasn't here to see missile systems or aviation offices. He came to visit custodians, store clerks and sewing machine operators.
James Omvig serves as the vice chairperson for the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. He was appointed to the committee in 2003 by former President George W. Bush.
The independent federal agency oversees the AbilityOne program, which promotes business relationships for federal agencies with goods and services from blind or disabled people. He spent the morning of Oct. 13 touring facilities operated by the people his committee is charged to assist.
"Mr. Omvig's visit is to thank AMCOM and the Huntsville federal community for 36 years of sterling support for the AbilityOne program," said Bryan Dodson, president and CEO for Phoenix Service. "Over the past 36 years, the combined support for AbilityOne in the Huntsville federal community has literally changed thousands of lives for person with disabilities served by Phoenix and the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind who operate the base supply center."
In addition to the Base Supply Center, which is not only operated by the Alabama Industries for the Blind but also carries products crafted by others with disabilities, Omvig visited Phoenix sites that provide both opportunities to the disabled and crucial services for the installation.
"Our custodial services are base-wide," Dodson said. "Right now that is 530-plus buildings for 6.5 million square feet. 186 employees are on the custodial staff alone."
He added that Phoenix employs close to 900 disabled people company-wide.
Omvig's committee was established in 1971 to promote and oversee the AbilityOne program. Redstone's relationship with AbilityOne goes back almost as far, Dodson said.
"It has existed pretty much since the beginning. We started as project 00003, which was sewing repair parts for missile systems," he said. "It's what got us into the sewing business back in 1973."
It was Omvig's first visit to Redstone. He was pleased with the relationships in place and looks forward to the opportunities the organizations moving to Redstone would provide. He hopes to see those relationships expand into defense contactors as well.
"We hear good things about Redstone," Omvig said. "We're hoping to see industry contractors become more involved with AbilityOne in the future. We want to grow this program."
Besides serving as vice chairperson for the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, Omvig serves on several other advisory boards. He serves as president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, is a member of the advisory board of the Louisiana Tech University's Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, and is on the national board of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults.
As a blind professional himself, promoting opportunities for the blind or disabled to work with dignity and independence are dear to him.
After completing his tour of Redstone and meeting with installation officials, Omvig was headed to Talladega to visit the Alabama Industries for the Blind's facilities there.
"We've been inviting him down for quite some time," Billy Sparkman, executive director for Alabama Industries for the Blind, said. "We're so glad he was able to make this time for us. We're excited to show him what we're doing."