TRAVERSE CITY — The cards seemed stacked against Paperworks Studios for a while, but now the program will have another chance to prove its worth.
Grand Traverse Industries will be taking over Paperworks Studios, a card-making program that employs more than 20 disabled and disadvantaged people.
GTI, a nonprofit corporation that already employs more than 300 people with disabilities, hopes to make Paperworks profitable by January 2015. The program lost money in recent years, but new buyers including Whole Foods helped chip away at the deficit.
“We cannot operate Paperworks without it becoming self-sustaining,” said Steve Purdue, the CEO of GTI. “We’re going to do our darnedest to make that goal.”
The agreement comes after Goodwill Industries officials announced they no longer could support the project, a stance that upset employees and their families and led them to wonder if their business was soon to fold.
But now employees are optimistic the changes will help them succeed.
“I think it’s a great shot for the company to grow bigger because that’s what it’s going to take,” said Nick Lonsdale, a Paperworks employee with cerebral palsy.
GTI will try to streamline Paperworks, which could include reconfiguring job duties, as well as trimming employees and their hours, Perdue said.
“There are some built-in inefficiencies the way it’s operating now that we’re going to have to deal with,” Perdue said.
Even if employees are forced out of Paperworks, they will be able to find jobs within the Goodwill umbrella.
GTI and Goodwill spent three months coming up with a management agreement, under which the two groups will jointly manage Paperworks Studio, with both groups providing financial support. The agreement will go into effect from March 2 through Aug. 31, at which point GTI will assume operational control.