Wed October 16, 2013
Local food truck business finds success in Burmese hires
The popularity of food trucks in Buffalo continues to be a big draw. The co-owner of Lloyd Taco Trucks has reached into the local immigrant and refugee population for new employees. WBFO'S Eileen Buckley says Lloyd's hired some employees who come from Burmese.
"They've been able to progress so fast. It's unbelievable and we're excited. We're actually -- we have two Burmese employees right now and we're brining on another one probably this week," said Peter Cimino co-owner of Lloyd's.
The company operates those well-know green food trucks spotted at various sites serving up tacos and other menu items.
We met Cimino in the basement of First Presbyterian Church at 1 Symphony Circle behind Kleinhan's Music Hall in Buffalo. It is where the food trucks and employees begin their day -- preparing items for the trucks. Cimino took us through the kitchen area.
"This is where everything starts and stops," said Cimino.
When it came to hiring some recent employees, Cimino decided to contact the International Institute of Buffalo. Cimino compared it to his father arriving in Buffalo from Italy many years ago to begin his American life.
"Maybe even my idea kind of sparked -- my father's an immigrant. He's from Italy and he has always been a ridiculously hard worker," said Cimino. "And that's kind of been instilled in myself and my brother and sister. And I thought 'hey what the heck' we've got a decent immigrant population here -- let's see if we could tap into that somehow."
Cimino's food truck business experiences a high turnover rate among employees, but now with his two Burmese employees, they're actually helping to grow his company.
"It's a different relationship, and they've been able to help us become much more efficient, especially in such a relatively short time. They're hard workers, which allows us more free time to focus on other things and they've been able to progress so fast -- it's unbelievable," said Cimino.
Language can often be a challenge for the employees, but it has been a hindrance in getting their work accomplished each day.
"They can kind of communicate with each other, which is helpful," said Cimino. "There are some challenges, but they are actually kind of fun challenges."
When many of these immigrants and refugees arrive here in in Buffalo they seek out language assistance at the International Institute. Eva Hassett is Executive Director at the IIB.
"We use are tracked training programs to teach the vocabulary, so maybe the first word someone will learn in English are the words they need to work on Lloyd's Truck, or to work at the Hyatt or to work at Surmet, a specialty manufacturing company," said Hassett.
But beyond receiving language assistance , the International Institute also offers job training. They teach Buffalo's newest citizens how to react on a job, from behavior to being be on time and they receive financial literacy so they can keep tabs on their own personal budget. Then they get help in matching them with an employer.
"One of the ways that the new arrivals to Buffalo -- the refugees that are coming to arrival -- are changing Buffalo is that they are going right into the workforce and their making our workforce stronger, but which improves their lives and it also improves the profitability of many, many employers," said Hassett.
The organization follows up with clients after placement to make sure it's the right fit.
"We would never place someone in a situation where they couldn't succeed,"said Hassett.
More than 200-area employers now work with the organizations -- ready to hire immigrants and refugees.
Thursday, October 17th the International Institute hosts its annual fundraiser -- Buffalo Without Borders -- at Asbury Hall. Lloyd Taco has donated to the event --- a chance for someone to win a catered party for 20.
"Especially in the way of cuisine, it gives people an opportunity to try things they would never be able to experience before," said Cimino.
Cimino refers to his Burmese hires as "great employees". About 1,400 primary refugees arrived from another this year at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Hassett said it's time for a city like Buffalo to begin actively marketing to refugees.
"I think that it really is an economic development strategy that we haven't figure out how to do yet. I'm hoping that this will be the year we figure out how to do that," said Hassett
Hassett calls this new population "Buffalo's Multiculturalism".