SUMTER, S.C.—Like many other tire dealerships, Frasier Tire Service is feeling an acute crunch when it comes to finding trainable, reliable personnel. So Julian Frasier, owner and president of the 12-outlet chain, is helping to solve his manpower problems by a novel approach. Through the local correctional facilities in the South Carolina counties where Frasier Tire has stores, Mr. Frasier hosts a work-release program, training non-violent inmates who are nearing the end of their sentences.
So far, Frasier Tire has trained and employed about 15 to 20 prisoners over the past two or three years, Mr. Frasier said. ``They do pretty basic services: changing tires, sweeping floors, taking out the trash,'' he said. ``Obviously, we don't send them out to road-test new Cadillacs. But for them and for us, it's just a dadgum good deal.''
Mr. Frasier has developed a working relationship with jail officials, who often point out likely candidates for the program. ``Sometimes they'll just call me up and say, `Old Joe, he's just about finished his sentence, and he could use a job,''' he said.
Of the men who have gone through the work-release program so far, only three or four are still with the company, Mr. Frasier said. ``Sometimes when they complete their sentence, you don't see them anymore,'' he said.
Part of the problem is that a prisoner's ties to the area are strictly due to his imprisonment: ``He may be incarcerated in our county, but he comes from halfway across the state.''
On the other hand, the workers who have stayed after finishing their sentences have worked out very well, Mr. Frasier said. One of them has just been promoted to doing brake work, oil changes and other general auto service.
Frasier Tire's work-release program has been particularly important to the company, considering the fierce competition for trained technicians from trade and technical schools. ``From the trade schools, what you get is good, but everybody's after those graduates,'' Mr. Frasier said.
In addition to work-release programs, Frasier Tire also has a pool of retirees it hires to ferry vehicles back to commercial customers such as ambulance services and ``nearly new'' used car lots. ``It's not a long-term thing, but it keeps us from pulling salesmen and technicians off their usual jobs,'' he said.
Sumter-based Frasier Tire had total 1998 sales of $19 million and projects a $20 million take in 1999. It carries both Goodyear and Remington tires, and breaks its business down into 40-percent retail, 40-percent commercial/retreading and 20-percent wholesale.