Human Technologies

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September 18, 2017 Issue



Q&A with Tim Giarrusso, President and CEO of Human Technologies Employing and Empowering People with Disabilities in providing Products and Services to New York State, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware Commercial Contracts, Government Agencies and the Federal Government



Tim Giarrusso

President/Chief Executive Officer


Human Technologies



Tim Giarrusso



Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – September 18, 2017


CEOCFO: Mr. Giarrusso, the tagline on the Human Technologies site is The Power of People with Purpose. How does that explain Human Technologies?  

Mr. Giarrusso: Human Technologies is a social enterprise and our mission is to employ people with disabilities. For over sixty years we have excelled at providing products and services to a host of customers around the world. Over sixty seven percent of our employees are people with various disabilities. We operate from three beliefs; “Each of us makes an impact”, “The work of our people transforms communities” and “Work done well makes everything possible.” In operating with those fundamental beliefs we see the power of the people that we employ and their ability to make a difference in their communities and in their families.


CEOCFO: Are you providing temporary workers? Are you providing permanent placement?

Mr. Giarrusso: We are a business with a mission, as I said, to employ people with disabilities. Everyone who is here is an employee. Everyone is eligible for benefits. Everyone gets paid a salary. We do not have job coaches. Just like you and I, all our employees get to work every day on their own and they get home on their own. It is not temporary. It is about employment.


CEOCFO: Are providing services to companies in different industries?

Mr. Giarrusso: Yes we are. We provide products and services to New York State, the federal government and commercial contracts locally. We operate in four different states, predominantly across New York State, but also in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware.  


CEOCFO: You say products and services. I see that you have manufacturing and packaging. Would you tell us about that aspect of the company?

Mr. Giarrusso: In regards to our manufacturing competencies, we excel at what I refer to as conversion. We are able to take various components and bring them into final product form. Therefore, we work heavily with suppliers of other companies to provide either an interface within their value chain to provide a component to move further into the value chain, or potentially complete the product at our facility and ship it out to the designated point of use.


CEOCFO: How have you chosen what areas, what industries to be involved in? Is there a particular synergy?

Mr. Giarrusso: A large percentage of our employment engine, as we call it, deals with our environmental services division, which includes cleaning and maintaining facilities. We clean and maintain over three million square feet of various buildings every day. A natural extension to this line of business was movement into total facilities management, where we then, on behalf of a customer, take over the HVAC maintenance, roof maintenance, plumbing, and higher level services; basically keeping that infrastructure operating through preventive maintenance services as well as break/fix. Another example is how we took our core competency of uniform fulfillment services, to expand our operation. We had to learn how to become a very efficient and productive purchaser of materials on behalf of our customers that focus primarily on uniforms; examples of what we are dealing with are the shirts, pants, hats and other gear associated with the US Forest Service. We then took that competency in procurement and began to provide a service to various divisions within the Department of State. This is where we acquire and perform a quality check, which relates back to some of our skill sets from our manufacturing and assembly activities. We kit those products on behalf of the Department of State and then ship them across the globe. It is usually a natural extension of the core competences we have built and where we can take those to create synergy. Another example of that would be in serving, for instance, the forest service or the USDA around uniform programs, essentially being their quartermaster, if you will, for thousands of employees. We built the web based portals for them to “shop in”. Therefore, that has positioned us to begin to look at how we can engage in internet sales of various products to everyday consumers. That is not a competency we had before we started working with customers at the USDA and their employees across the country.


CEOCFO: How do you deal with some of the challenges working with various government agencies? 

Mr. Giarrusso: We participate fully by understanding all the rules and regulations as best we can. We have a staff here that have become, I would say in some instances, more familiar with the federal acquisition regulations than some of the contracting officers in the government. As we deal with turnover of contracting officers, at times, we are helping to educate them about the regulations. Therefore, it really needs to be approached from a collaborative stance. If you take an adversarial stance working with government agencies it just does not help. We try to be as supportive and engaging and collaborative as possible.


CEOCFO: What do you look for in your employees? How do you know when someone is a right fit for your company?

Mr. Giarrusso: I spent twenty seven years in the for-profit world and the last ten in the not-for-profit arena. I have not seen that much of a difference. What I would say is that at some point you can detect where and when and how a person has the heart for this kind of work in engaging people with disabilities. Again, that is the traditional frame of mind; we employ people with disabilities. What I think we excel at, and I say this repeatedly, is that we have a competency at identifying the abilities within people, regardless. That is what we look for. It is how people see beyond the surface and commit themselves to helping to find a way. In this case, finding a way is how to employ people with different challenges than maybe you or I might have.


CEOCFO: Do you see reaching beyond the geography you are in now or perhaps helping other companies develop, because you have clearly got a successful model from a business perspective and from a human perspective? How do you expand?  

Mr. Giarrusso: Interestingly enough, where and how we are looking to expand is right here within the Mohawk Valley of the State of New York. There is a tremendous resurgence taking place up and down the thruway between Rome, New York and Little Falls, New York. Those are typically two cities along the thruway that I reference. We are trying to expand our presence within the Mohawk Valley in terms of leveraging our core competencies. As an example, we recently inked a deal to do the online sales for the Utica Boilermaker, which is one of the largest road races in the country each year. They have been running that race for over forty years now. To be in partnership utilizing our employees and using our skill sets to support a really big event annually here in the valley is setting the stage for us to provide those services to other companies. We are starting to look at the Saranac Brewery and wondering if we can begin to help them with online sales. All things Utica; how we can continue to promote the area where our corporate headquarters resides. We are looking at land acquisitions along the Erie Canal and positioning ourselves to be part of those resurgences and redevelopments, so that when buildings go up we can be the ones cleaning them, we can be the ones maintaining them and employing people with disabilities shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors, who might not otherwise get a chance to work. We are also beginning to look at taking equity stakes in start-ups where employment for people with disabilities is a possibility.

CEOCFO: Many, many companies have an online presence and online sales. What are your criteria for companies or organizations you are looking at that you might be most helpful for?

Mr. Giarrusso: One of the things that we try to do is find the synergy with companies that understand what we are about and what our mission of employing people with disabilities is about. Therefore, sometimes I factor in that we are interested in collaborating with building business models where each side of the equation is benefitting. Our organization, while we are self-sufficient and operating in the black, is operating in a one, two, three percent margin arena, so we make it known that we need to have a viable and mutually supportive business arrangement right up front. Some organizations just do not want to hear any of that; and often it will peak other peoples interest.  They want to help make a difference in the community and we can help them do that.


CEOCFO: What has changed in people’s view of hiring people with disabilities? Do you see advancement in the concept? Do you see more of recognition of people that of course people can do the job? 

Mr. Giarrusso: I have started to see a whole range of activities in communities, for instance families starting businesses where they decide to focus on employing people with Down Syndrome or folks along the Autism spectrum. You do not hear much about them unless you are specifically looking for those models. However, they do to create a focus for inclusion in communities. Therefore, at Human Technologies we are starting to look at franchise opportunities, potentially in the next three to five years. Could we franchise a business where we look to create a 50/50 split of employing people with disabilities with their fellow community members? I think it is improving and changing and I am inspired by the things you see in high school sporting activities and events where individuals get included in game night periodically. They may have a role on a team at school and the coach or teacher will present opportunities that, when I was in high school I never saw that. It did not happen.


CEOCFO: What surprised you as CEO and president of Human Technologies as you have been leading the company?

Mr. Giarrusso: When I was first hired one of the challenges the board said was, “We want you to help elevate the awareness and visibility of what Human Technologies can do in our community”. Therefore, I was tasked to go out and start networking with other CEOs, other executive directors and other business leaders in the community. I would come back and I would say to my staff or to the folks working here, “Hey, did you know what they do over at the Compassion Coalition,” and they would all look at me and say, “What is that?” I kept testing that and what I started to realize was that we needed to open up more and become much more aware of the great things that many organizations in the area were doing and what they are about. I was surprised at how inwardly focused an organization can become in its own community. Therefore, while we wanted more people to know about us, I said to my staff, and Board, “We have to know more about what other organizations do.”


CEOCFO: Why should people pay attention to Human Technologies? Why is the organization important?

Mr. Giarrusso: I would say that in terms of social enterprise models, and being a not for profit, the ability for us to contribute and be self-sufficient, is on the cutting edge of a point in time where many federal regulations are changing the landscape for not for profit organizations. Funding is becoming much more elusive and reduced. Over the last six to ten years Human Technologies has done a great job of positioning itself to be self-sufficient and not depend on dollars from the government or philanthropy. That is a reason to pay attention, because it can be done. It does take time and it is possible.


“We operate from three beliefs; “Each of us makes an impact”, “The work of our people transforms communities” and “Work done well makes everything possible.”- Tim Giarrusso


Human Technologies



Tim Giarrusso








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