Envision makes plastic bags, an almost unimaginable number of plastic bags.
The company just won the renewal of its five-year contract with the Defense Commissary Agency worth nearly $47.3 million, if all options are exercised.
The bags will carry groceries bought in military grocery stores on bases around the world. Called T-shirt bags, they’re the same as found in typical grocery stores, such as Walmart and Dillons.
“It funds all the facets of our mission, and it’s a huge contract, but the margin on each bag is actually pretty small,” said Mary Shannon, president of the Envision Foundation.
Envision has had the contract for about 10 years under a federal program to support nonprofit groups that employ people with disabilities.
Envision employs scores of workers who are blind or have limited vision at its plant at 2301 S. Water, where the bags are made.
And just how many bags does $47.3 million buy?
Each year, Envision will make 308,000 cases of bags. Each case contains 1,500 bags. So, over the life of the contract, Envision workers will make 2.31 billion bags, at about 2 cents per bag.
Winning the contract was welcome, but expected, said Shannon. Envision was the only bidder on the contract.
David Wells, director of advertising, said the federal government checks every year to see that the contract price is comparable with the market price for plastic bags.
Shannon said Envision is also seeking contracts to make bags for other businesses or agencies.
“We certainly have seen a lot of cutbacks in government and are looking to private markets,” she said.
Funds from the contract, plus other contracts and fundraising, support other parts of Envision’s mission, such as the Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center and education programs.
Founded in the 1930s, Envision is the second largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the United States. Almost half of its nearly 500 employees are blind or visually impaired.