Rupert Howell Column 11-4-08

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008

GE ‘initiatives’ should influence entire community

At first you notice her title is not “plant manager” but “plant leader.”

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The next thing you know she’s talking about “being green” and “healthy snack options only.”

When GE Aviation dedicated their new building and the Batesville Composites Operation October 23, Plant Leader Kristie Sturgeon asked, “What do you think of when you think of green?”

Like most others present, I suspect,  I was thinking of money. She was thinking eco-friendly.

Its apparent that before GE can be completely successful on a local level, somebody’s got to change the culture.

And that’s what is going on.

Sturgeon said that the local plant is, “Getting to do things here nobody else gets to do,” and mentioned initiatives that will not only enhance production but enhance the quality of life for others in the area.

One of those initiatives is health and wellness. We all know about this, but with some it’s like the weather — makes good conversation.

The local plant is tobacco free, offers only healthy snack options, and has constructed a 1.25 mile walking track and baseball diamond out back. They also spend a couple of minutes each morning and after lunch doing stretching exercises.

And 17 of 31 currently employed there recently weighed-in after a five-week “biggest loser” competition where they lost 145 total pounds.

Sturgeon said the company through healthy mind, body and soul will create better work teams and hire folks at the right stages that complement their work force.

Sturgeon said that the health and wellness program at work may well spread to employees’ families and homes and at that point, my friends, you are beginning to change the culture.

School districts in Mississippi are also promoting wellness with both exercise and better nutrition. If mom and pop are getting it at work and cissy girl and junior boy are getting it at school, something’s bound to take.

Volunteerism is another aspect of GE’s plan to become good corporate citizens. The second day of work employees took part in working at Batesville Elementary School where they assisted with landscaping.

I saw them there working. It was a hot day. I wasn’t envious of the chores they faced.

Sturgeon also noted that the usual layers of management are not used.Instead, all employees are a part of a team of associates.

“We are going to be good corporate citizens,” Sturgeon said and proclaimed, “This is the best workforce I’ve ever worked with — hands down.”