October 24, 2021

Major moves at JM Murray

$800,000 economic grant to fund changes at Cortlandville facility

Travis Dunn/staff reporter

Lois Spencer folds tissue paper packets for bridal gown boxes Monday at the JM Murray facility at 823 Route 13 in Cortlandville.

JM Murray, a 52-year-old nonprofit based at 823 Route 13 in Cortlandville, is looking at major changes over the next year funded by an $800,000 state Regional Economic Development Council grant, said M. Dodge, the organization’s president and CEO.

One of these changes — the relocation of Oraline, a for-profit affiliate — is already complete. Oraline, of which JM Murray owns 50%, moved out of the Route 13 warehouse last fall and is already operating out of its new home in the 70,500-square-foot former Cortland Pump building on Bennie Road, Dodge said.

Oraline, however, takes up only a portion of the new building — 18,750 square feet of warehouse and 2,100 square feet of office space — leaving plenty of room for another for-profit affiliate, Enterprise Service Technologies Inc., or ESTI, which is wholly owned by JM Murray.

ESTI now occupies rented space in the Cortland Commerce Center, but the state grant will also enable that company to move to the Bennie Road building by the end of June, he said.

Grant money will also help renovate the Bennie Road space for ESTI.

The next big shift will move JM Murray’s offices on 4057 West Road to the Bennie Road building by the end of 2020, Dodge said. JM Murray plans to sell the West Road building. In 2021, JM Murray will focus on expanding business operations at the 110,000 square-foot Route 13 building.

“We’re going to enter into new fields,” he said. “We should be able to increase our sales as well.”

Dodge declined to offer specific information about these changes or number of possible jobs that might be created.

Until operations ramp up in 2021, JM Murray will continue its current work — providing employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in a work environment in which they are fully integrated with general hire workers.

The nonprofit employs more than 240 general hire workers and about 135 trainees, workers with disabilities. The latter are paid based on productivity through special federal certificates issued according to provision 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Very few people cross the line from being a trainee at JM Murray to being a full-time employee, which is not a criticism of the trainees, but an acknowledgment of the reality of employing intellectual and developmental disabilities workers, he said.

Lois Spencer of Marathon is one of the exceptions. Spencer has been working at JM Murray for two decades. She started out as a trainee and she worked in that capacity for 19 years. A year ago, she was hired as a regular salaried employee.

“I like it here,” Spencer said. “The people are nice.”

As a trainee, she worked fewer hours — from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Now as a regular employee, she works a full shift, starting at 7 a.m. and finishing at 3:30 p.m, and she’s paid hourly.

Monday morning, she was folding tissue paper for bridal gown boxes.

“Ultimately this will end up at dry cleaners around the country,” Dodge said.

But Spencer has done many different tasks over the years, from assembling razors to making toothbrushes. More than a dozen different packaging, assembling and manufacturing processes are going on at any given time, Dodge said.

In one room, workers were packaging toothpaste in clear tubes for federal jails — the tubes are clear so they can’t be used to smuggle contraband, he said.

“The pride and the dignity of earning a paycheck — that’s what these folks are here for,” Dodge said.

JM Murray also provides services for more than 800 other people with disabilities, including help with housing, social activities and personal finances.