Company that provides work for disabled expanding

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- A local company that helps people with disabilities learn the skills they need to get a job, keep a job, and live independently is now expanding.

The community got to see today first-hand what the new facility owned and operated by the Chippewa River Industries looks like, at their open house held Thursday.

It took more than a year for this dream of expansion to become a reality. And the non-profit says the new building could mean even more employment opportunities for those who need it most.

“Our mission is to help people live as independently as possible,” said President and CEO of Chippewa River Industries Dave Lemanski.

CRI is essentially a sub-contract print shop. Lemanski says the expansion comes on the 45th year of company’s operation.

“We have just over 50 staff employees. We serve 400 people with disabilities here in the 5-county region,” explained Lemanski.

The new 15-thousand square feet facility is just a short walk away from the existing 30-thousand square feet of CRI work space.

“It will allow us to set up safer production lines, as well as open up some production space at our currently facility across the road,” said Lemanski.

And that's what current employees are most excited about.

“People like me need some help getting a job,” said CRI employee Richie Short.

“With this facility we would have the capacity to employ as many as 50 additional people with disabilities,” added Lemanski.

Lemanski says a Community Development Block Grant paid for most of the building costs. The Rutledge Charity also financially supported the project.

“Best place to work here,” said CRI employee Robert ‘Freddie’ Hetzler.
Hetzler has been employed by CRI since 1996. He doesn't know yet if he will be one of nearly 70 employees that will be moved across the street to the new building, regardless he is excited for the change.

“We’re thankful for the opportunities we can create for people with disabilities, and its days like today and grand openings like today that make it all worth it,” said Lemanski.

“Hopefully we get this up and running soon,” added Hetzler.

The company says they plan to be fully operational by early November.

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