MOVTA, Simonton Windows team up for shuttle service for company’s employees

Photos by Brett Dunlap The new Simonton Shuttle will start service Monday transporting employees to Simonton Windows in Ritchie County. The company is partnering with the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority to provide transportation for Simonton employees who don’t have transportation to work. The transit authority is using the service as a test to eventually provide service to Ritchie County.

PARKERSBURG — A new bus service — the Simonton Shuttle — will transport people to Ritchie County starting Monday in a partnership with Simonton Windows and Doors.

Simonton, part of PlyGem Industries, is launching the partnership with the Mid Ohio Valley Transit Authority to create employment opportunities for underserved populations and provide public transit services to communities east of Parkersburg.

The transit authority, operators of Easy Rider, is financed by property tax levies in Parkersburg and Vienna and also receives federal funds.

The authority was approached by Simonton about potential employees who live in Wood County, but do not have reliable transportation.

“There are many individuals with the qualities and capabilities we seek in our associates, but are unable to commute to our plants in Ritchie County,” said Eric Benson, Human Resource Manager for Simonton Windows in Ellenboro. “We soon learned that MOVTA had a real interest in fostering service to our area, and just needed the right relationship to help make that happen.”

Photos by Brett Dunlap The new Simonton Shuttle will start service Monday transporting employees to Simonton Windows in Ritchie County. The company is partnering with the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority to provide transportation for Simonton employees who don’t have transportation to work. The transit authority is using the service as a test to eventually provide service to Ritchie County.

The company is reaching out with employment opportunities to underserved populations, Benson said.

“These are folks who may be coming from a background where they didn’t have opportunities to find readily available employment,” he said. “As part of that we are partnering with the Salvation Army, reaching out to local veterans groups, the Latrobe Street Mission and others to find candidates to review who would be ideal for the shuttle service and for this opportunity.”

Hiring and promotion have been taking place in and around Parkersburg and Vienna, including outreach events at the Salvation Army, local veterans groups, and other work-based employment services.

Simonton has been holding open interviews with individuals at the Parkersburg Salvation Army who might qualify for this opportunity. The interviews have been held on Tuesdays over the past few weeks. They will be held again this Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Tim Thomas, general manager of the transit authority, and Benson worked together to develop a special Shuttle Bus Pilot project for Simonton employees that reliably allows them to get back and forth to work when scheduled for both day and night shifts.

Starting out, the shuttle run is fully funded by Simonton. The transit authority is hoping to use this as a springboard for transit services from Ritchie County to Parkersburg and Vienna on the backhaul return trip, allowing better access to transit services that many local residents may be lacking.

“We have been looking for an opportunity to extend our services out the Route 50 Corridor,” Thomas said. “The partnership with Simonton will enable us to determine the best possible routing and schedule to serve the people of Ritchie County.

“Once funding is in place, local residents in that area will be able to take comfortable, affordable public transit into Wood County for shopping, doctor’s visit, or even just a day with friends and family.”

The employee shuttle will help Easy Rider demonstrate there is a need for this service, Benson said.

“By us filling in that missing link, it demonstrates the need for service in that area,” he said. “It allows them to test potential schedules, get the timing down and to figure out how a run out there could work.”

Traditional transit funding is funded through taxes and levies. By partnering with Simonton, Easy Rider can work out a plan for transit services to Ritchie County.

“They have plans in place where they want to go east to Ritchie County and beyond,” Benson said. “We are providing the platform for them to experiment so they can get it right when they launch.

“We are excited that we are providing that opportunity, that foundation on building public transportation services out there on what we are doing as partners.”

The shuttle will leave around 7 a.m. and return around 5 p.m. for day shift employees as well as 7 p.m. and return around 5 a.m. for night shift employees.

There will be three stops in town to pick up the employees, one at the Salvation Army, one at the Route 47/U.S. 50 Park and Ride and one at the Seventh Street Kroger location.

“Those seem to be really convenient locations for folks to get to,” Benson said. “If the service grows, we are not afraid to add more shuttles to bring on additional workers.”

The initial shuttle will a 25-passenger bus.

Being in the middle of oil and gas country, there are many companies who are providing transportation for employees.

Simonton wanted to do something more to reach out to those underserved populations. The company is looking for people who can make a commitment.

Although there is a need to fill positions on their manufacturing lines, especially during the busy fall season, the company is looking for long-term employees.

“We are looking for folks who like the idea of a long-term commitment,” Benson said. “We are looking for folks who would like to stay.”

Branded the “Simonton Shuttle,” both sides view this as a win-win project.

“It gives people with limited transportation the opportunity to seek gainful employment, helps secure associates for our business, and gives back to our communities via the intended backhaul transit route,” Benson said.

The Simonton Shuttle is slated to begin carrying workers to Ritchie County each day starting Monday, Labor Day, which Benson said was an appropriate day to launch the service.

“We are very pleased to be a part of this community-minded effort,” Thomas said.

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