GD Copper is NOT the Savior of Wilcox County,
but they Try.
By Elizabeth Grimes Reaves
In recent weeks several media outlets have printed articles in regards
to GD Copper, they are not employing enough local workers, they offer
low wages, they haven’t pushed Wilcox County into the same industrial
levels as Lee or Madison County, they haven’t lowered unemployment or
brought in millions of dollars of tax revenue- they don’t even have
I am not going to address the safety violations, but rest
assured, GD Copper has already taken action to correct all citations.
I want to focus on the employment aspect of GD Copper. After reading
all of the negative print, I went to Sunny South and met with Mr. KC
Pang, Vice President of GD Copper. The most memorable tidbit of
information I took away from the meeting was Mr. Pang’s belief that
anyone can succeed if they set up a plan of action and stick to it,
but the most important piece of information brought back- GD Copper
had a rocky start, but the road they are on now is smooth and filled
with opportunity for them and Wilcox County.
GD Copper starting pay as a floor employee is $11/hour, with the
opportunity to work overtime- from there, $15-$22/hour within the
first 6 months, potentially topping out at $32/hour within the first
year as a team leader or supervisor! At this time GD Copper conducts
employee evaluations every 3 months. The evaluation is made up of 3
parts- Performance, Attendance, and Production. If you meet standards
and pass the evaluation you receive a raise which ranges from 1-3%
depending on the evaluation score. GD Copper has also implemented a
new program where they promote employees to management positions,
before advertising job openings. The company would prefer to train and
promote an entry level employee who has shown excellent drive and
desire to move up than bring in someone new. Pang wants supervisors
who have hands on experience in his plant that know the ins and outs
of all lower levels he or she will be managing. With an opportunity
like this why isn’t everyone at GD Copper earning $100k per year????
Because people do not have the same drive and motivation that Pang and
others like him have. You have heard the line “You can lead a horse to
water but you can’t make him drink” That same applies to the
employment opportunities at GD Copper. The entry level jobs are low
paying- low skill level, but taking an entry level position is first
step to success. Within the first year of employment, you receive
hands-on job training and skills that will advance you in to any
position, if you are willing to try. In addition to hourly pay,
employees also have the opportunity to earn additional income through
incentives and bonuses- if you have 100% attendance for a quarter, you
get a bonus.
One article states the majority of employees at the plant are Chinese-
not true- 35% of its’ workforce is from Wilcox County, 45% is from
Clarke County., with the others coming from surrounding areas. 95% of supervisors and team leaders are from Wilcox and
Clarke County. In the last year, 24 floor employees have been promoted
to supervisory positions. There are 70 Chinese employees at the plant-
they serve as advisors and trainers only. They shadow new hires, teaching
them safety and production guidelines, as well as preparing employees
for supervisor positions. Mr. Pang’s newest goal is to have the plant
100% staffed with local employees within the next year- from floor to upper management.
It was mentioned in one article that GD Copper is at fault for our
high unemployment rate – unemployment is still at 15%, supposedly the
same level it was before they came. This is untrue. I received a chart
from Wilcox Works reflecting the unemployment rates from 2012 to
present and have included it hoping you will see the truth. The rate doesn’t take into account seasonal workers, therefore summer months are always higher than others. What
has not been mentioned is that the 15% unemployment for our population
is only 439 people– if a quarter of those people went to work in
Wilcox County, the rate would drop significantly. GD Copper supplied
the job opportunities- they can’t supply the workforce as well. You
can lead people to jobs, provide free training for the positions, but
you cannot make them work. GD Copper never promised to lower our
employment rate—only we can do that. They did however promise to
assist with training the work force—and they are doing that, but it is
not something that can be done overnight. It takes time, it takes
people who want to learn and succeed, and it takes motivation- both
from within and from others around.
Mr. Pang’s favorite success story is that of several single mother
employees who began working at GD Copper who previously relied solely
on government subsidies. Within the first year of employment, they no
longer needed or wanted government assistance and became self-reliant.
They realized their ability to grow within the company and they aimed
for the top- becoming a supervisor at an international company.
Encouragement from superiors and self-motivation gave them the drive
to become completely independent and now they are aiming higher-
working toward buying homes, upgrading their cars, even saving for
retirement, in addition to contributing to the company provided 401K.
When GD Copper built the plant in Wilcox County, they lead people to
jobs- many employment agencies did the same, but no company can make a
person work, or even show up for a job. That drive can only come from
within. No one walks into a company and becomes CEO or President
within a year, but for some reason people across the country believe
that is exactly how the world works. GD Copper has partnered with
Alabama Southern Community College, Wilcox Central High School and
Thomasville High School to teach technical courses to students
interested in learning the basic skills required for employment within
the plant- but very few take advantage.
Give Mr. Pang a chance, give GD Copper a chance, hear the whole story,
not just what media wants you to hear. You may surprised. They opened
the plant with a rocky start, but they are now operating smoothly with
talks of expanding a 3rd production line, sorry guys- no chance of
them shutting down, converting to a catfish processing plant, or
anything else! GD Copper will remain a copper plant proudly operating
in Sunny South, Alabama. One more little fact—they have 200 fire
extinguishers, in plain view, properly placed in the plant. I’ve even
been lucky enough to see them first hand!