From Damon Cline
The inspiration for Textron Specialized Vehicles’ RPM campus is being honored by the state’s main manufacturing-assistance program for being an inspiration himself. Textron vice president Jason Alford, who helped create the Reaching Potential through Manufacturing program for at-risk Richmond County students, on Tuesday received a Georgia Tech 2017 Faces of Manufacturing Award during an event attended by local officials, business leaders and dozens of his closest colleagues.
“I can tell you without a doubt he is the hardest-working person I’ve ever met in my entire career,” Textron operations director Heather Meyer said. And all of Alford’s work is done without the use of his legs.
A motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the chest down just two weeks after joining Textron at age 25 in 2003. He returned to work after months of surgery and physical therapy, working his way up to his current position as head of the company’s integrated supply chain.
“You’ve heard the old adage: Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it,” Alford said.
The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Faces of Manufacturing program highlights industry workers with innovative and inspirational stories to get more young people to seek manufacturing careers, said Elliot Price, Augusta area director of the university’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Program, which oversees the three-year-old initiative.
“Manufacturing is a good job,” Price said. “A lot of our houses are being paid for and a lot of our cars are being paid for by the support of our manufacturing base.” Alford was among four award recipients based on more than 13,000 online votes. “I think he’s probably No. 1,” Price joked. “But I can’t say that officially.” Alford thanked school officials for their work in helping create the RPM program, which enables students in danger of dropping out an opportunity to earn their diploma while earning money – and marketable manufacturing skills – by building components and sub-assemblies for E-Z-GO golf cars and other Textron brands at a former manufacturing facility on Mike Padgett Highway.
Alford, an Augusta native who grew up in the Harrisburg area, said he shares his story of overcoming adversity with RPM students to inspire them to work harder. He also shares it with new hires to give them a glimpse into Textron’s corporate culture.
“The company didn’t really owe me anything, but they stuck by me and they allowed me to come back and work part-time until I could work myself back up into a full-time situation,” Alford said. “So when I interview people I tell them the story because I want them to know what kind of company they’ll be joining.” ❂