By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — As Western New Yorkers continue to reel from years of economic depression, Goodwill Industries says its presence has become increasingly popular.
And that was one of many reasons the not-for-profit launched a new store in North Tonawanda’s Mid City Plaza this week, the organization’s CEO Tom Lynch said.
The Western New York outfit, as well as the many others around the country and the world, provide jobs and training for “people who are facing challenges” such as the “physically and developmentally disabled and the economically disadvantaged,” Lynch said, while the local organization has also seen 30 percent growth over the last two years.
Nine local jobs were added to its portfolio Monday when a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Payne Avenue. Some of the new hires were recently let go when another mainstream retailer, the Fashion Bug, closed in the same building where the Goodwill just opened.
Lynch said the store, more than 8,000 square feet, now stands as the largest of the group’s nine retail outlets, with the 10th opening in Batavia next month. Goodwill Industries of WNY also added a drop-off trailer this week at the nearby Tops Friendly Market on Meadow Drive.
“North Tonawanda is a distinct community that is underserved,” Lynch said of the decision to open a new location. “People in Western New York are facing challenges and we give them opportunity. We have nine or 10 people working in North Tonawanda that maybe wouldn’t be working otherwise.”
Lynch said he saw many former customers return in 2008 and 2009 after the economic recession gripped the country. And while there has been a rise in jobs since then, many continue to return as the organization often tracks its customers through a loyalty program.
“When they saw what they could get, they stayed,” he said. “Why buy a brand name for $30 when you can buy it for $5?”
Goodwill has also begun recycling old electronic equipment with a partnership made in December with Sunnking Electronics Recycling company. That venture was in part due to the 42,000 pounds of electronic equipment collected annually by Goodwill in the area.
Lynch said efforts to expand the number of retail outlets in the Goodwill’s eight-county area picked up in recent years when the organization “just realized we have a lot more potential than we thought we had.”
Increased revenues have also allowed the Goodwill to offer greater opportunities for the 274 individuals who work for the group, providing educational workshops and in many cases passing on basic “readiness skills” like showing up on time and having back-up plans for those who need to find daycare for their children.
“That’s more important than anything,” he said.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.