Dot Foods committed to growth and training

By Mike Bennett

Dot Foods delivers far more than supplies across a six-state region from its big and bustling plant at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Indiana 1 at Cambridge City.

Mario Diazgarcia in the cab of a Dot Foods truck. The company is seeing success with a newly implemented training program for new truck drivers.

Mario Diazgarcia drives in the cab of a Dot Foods truck. The company is seeing success with a newly implemented training program for truck drivers. (Photo supplied)

It also delivers good jobs, good community relations and a good model for economic development success in Wayne County.

Dot Foods is built upon a culture of expansion for the company and for its 270 employees at the Cambridge City plant. “We’re growing like crazy. That’s a good problem to have,” says Jennifer Moistner, human resources coordinator at the decade-old distribution site. “We have to keep up with that (in hiring).”

One way that Dot keeps up is by running a unique training program for truck drivers. They are paid while they participate in the Earn to Learn program, which lasts four to six weeks. Dot also helps them obtain their licenses.

“As soon as they start, they are an employee,” says Dispatch Clerk Ashley Mays, the program coordinator. “We are the first to do a student program like that. We’ve set the bar and set it high.”

The drivers first undergo an orientation at The Archive in downtown Cambridge City, a remodeled former library that is rented regularly by Dot Foods for training and other purposes.

The current drivers’ group has pushed the site’s number to record heights.

“We’ll be at 90 soon,” Mays boasts.

Dot Foods employee Amanda Thackrey moves product in the warehouse. (Photo supplied)

Double that number are employed at the warehouse and distribution center that handles tens of thousands of products. The Illinois-based Dot Foods is the largest food industry redistributor in the United States.

“Our customers are other distributors,” Moistner explains. “They service the restaurants, schools and convenience stores.”

Dot makes it easier and more cost efficient by using trucks that can deliver items all in one load — dry, refrigerated or frozen.

The local site is already among the largest employers in Wayne County, ranking 12th overall, according to statistics compiled by the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County.

Dot hires employees with the help of its own website and through a partnership with WorkOne. “We don’t use third-party vendors or temp services. We are direct hire,” Moistner says.

Mays uses social media a lot to attract drivers, as well as visiting driving schools and job fairs. “We tell them about us and try to get them to come here,” she says.

Obviously it has worked: Dot has trained 26 students so far in Earn to Learn, with many having changed career fields. They’ve come from education and the military, from manufacturing and many other fields.

Many of them had been unemployed or underemployed.

The unique Earn to Learn training program was implemented with the help of a $75,000 training grant from the EDC of Wayne County. “Dot is a prime example of the type of companies that we want to attract and grow in Wayne County,” says Valerie Shaffer, president of the EDC. “The way they treat their employees like family and provide opportunities for advancement make them a premier employer in our community.”

Dot Foods creates a family work atmosphere and often rewards employees with dinners, cookouts and tickets to local attractions. (Photo supplied)

The Earn to Learn program, which started a year and a half ago, has proven successful in attracting quality applicants to Dot. “Drivers are hard to come by,” Moistner says. “You have to look at different ways to get them and to keep them.”

One way to keep them is showing appreciation. In that realm, truck drivers were treated to a barbecue on a recent Wednesday.

Dot hosts summer outings and holiday parties. Employees are given tickets to visit the Kings Island theme park.

There are special contests to promote safety. “Go six months safe and we’ll have a dinner cookout and give out gift cards,” Moistner says.

Another way to retain employees is to give them opportunities to grow.

Dot employees are encouraged to work toward brighter futures, to get themselves in positions for promotions. “It’s a culture across the board,” Jennifer Moistner says about the whole corporation. “If leadership is your path, we want to get you on that road. We are good at helping get to the next step.”

Employees can participate in development programs and set personal development plans along with their managers.

Dot likes to promote from within. Moistner knows that first hand. She advanced from her starting receptionist position in 2010 while her husband, Todd, was a founding employee who has “worked his way into shift manager,” she says.

Products are stacked high at the Dot Foods facility in the Indiana Gateway Industrial Park near Cambridge City. (Photo by Jeff Bond)

The plant is always looking to give opportunities to local people who make a “good culture fit,” Jennifer Moistner says.

The fit includes people with a good character and a good work ethic, “somebody who can work in a team environment, be honest and ethical,” she says.

“We can’t teach someone good character.”

Dot looks to maintain “a good, solid connection with where we are and who we are,” Moistner says. “Knowing the community is critical.”

So is helping it. Dot has received high honors for its contributions to Cambridge City and Western Wayne County.

The company and its employees were named company of the year in 2012 by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. The previous year, employees donated more than $14,586 to the United Way and Dot made a matching gift of $7,293.

Dot gives help to a variety of organizations and does many other community activities, such as a yearly job fair at Lincoln High School, where students are shown ways to present themselves well in the job-seeking process. “We have a great charitable contribution committee,” Mays says. “It’s great to be a part of that.”

A Dot Foods truck participating in a parade through Cambridge City. (Jane Holman)

A Dot Foods truck participates in the annual Canal Days parade in Cambridge City. (Photo by Jane Holman)

Moistner and Mays are examples of Dot’s pursuit of strong, caring and family-centric employees.

Moistner is a Cambridge City native who lives in nearby Dublin with her husband and three stepchildren. She was recruited from the hospitality industry several months after helping organize a Dot event at a hotel.

“This is still my way of taking care of somebody,” she explains. “Taking care of employees is my Number 1 job. It’s still hospitality.”

Mays, who lives in Cambridge City, started working at Dot two years ago after being a stay-at-home mom to her three children. The plant is flexible about helping her work around parenting duties.  “I’ve never worked for a more family-oriented company,” she says. “I love the small town culture and feel. That’s part of Dot. This is a perfect fit.”


Facebook

Twitter