Business feature: State agency helps local man open machine shop

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Jim Perry, owner of J & S Machining Shop in Clovis, displays an invention he calls a mini track. Perry said the vehicle might be used by farmers in winter months to haul hay to cattle in the pasture.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

He believes eventually he would have had his machine shop going on his own.

But Jim Perry says help from the New Mexico Division of Vocational Rehabilitation made his dream happen a lot sooner.

Perry, 51, said food allergies ended his Air Force career just two years shy of retirement.

Later, he was fired from a Lubbock manufacturing plant when tremors in his hands — a left-over from a childhood illness — led his boss to believe he had a substance abuse problem.

Perry said he was drawing unemployment but wanted to open his own machine shop in Clovis. A Veteran’s Affairs representative at the unemployment office guided him to the state DVR program.

“He said ‘you’ve got all these talents, you know how to machine, you know how to weld,” Perry said.

Within about a year, Perry received more than $40,000 in assistance and was looking for customers.

DVR bought him several pieces of equipment, including welders and plasma cutters, purchased a 30-by-30-foot workshop and paid to have it wired, he said.

Perry watched his business, J&S Machining, grow. He’s seen it through slow times, too, thankful for the financial breath of life it was given by the state.

“He was a good business man, he made a go out of it,” Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor George Ortiz said. Ortiz managed Perry’s case until a little more than two years ago.

“He’s a mild mannered man, real friendly, does what he’s supposed to do. He was a real likable individual, I guess that’s why he draws customers the way he does and he does real good work.”

The DVR works with people who have diagnosed disabilities. It will pay for college, vocational training or, as in Perry’s case, help start businesses.

Disabilities that can qualify for services through the state program range from psychological to physical challenges.

Though Ortiz said his case load averages 80 to 100 clients at any given time, he said there are many more in the community who could benefit from services.

“Usually we don’t hurt for referrals in Clovis,” he said.

The recession has created an increase in the number seeking services, said Alice King, who oversees the Clovis office as DVR’s District 9 Program Manager.

Clovis’ two counselors are currently handling 196 cases and have assisted 63 people with disabilities in becoming successfully employed this year, she said.

Clients are referred through a number of sources, including the Social Security office, employment services, doctors and she said some come in on their own.

The program offers assistance to high school graduates or GED recipients who need help transitioning to higher education or the workforce.

“If we have somebody that comes in and says, ‘I want to weave baskets’, then we will find someone that can teach them and hopefully improve their life situation,” King said.

Clients are required to obtain a diagnosis of their disability and undergo screenings. Eligibility alone can take up to two months.

But King said, “It is kind of a sweet deal if you have the time to just go through the process…”

“We have people that have high blood pressure or bad backs,” he said. “You don’t have to be a paraplegic to apply for disabilities (with us).”

And King said counselors still work to help those who don’t qualify.

“We never just throw somebody out and say we can’t help you,” she said.

For Perry, the opportunity given to him by the DVR was one for which he is very thankful.

“I would recommend it to anyone that is serious; serious about trying to forward their education or trying to get a job,” Perry said.

“There’s a lot of people here in Clovis that deserve it, that deserve a little helping hand or nudge to get them started… They try to help people maintain a working environment for themselves to where they feel like their contributing to the community and I’ve got nothing but praise for them.”

To find out more about services from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, call 763-3437 or visit www.dvrgetsjobs.com