Vice President of Commercial Facilities Services Chris Bunch shares how PRIDE Industries helps private and public organizations achieve their operational goals while simultaneously providing career employment for people with disabilities. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(This interview has been edited and condensed)
Griffin Hamilton (GH): Welcome to another episode of the Modern Facilities Management Podcast. I’m your host, Griffin Hamilton. This is the show where I interview industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights in modern-day facilities management—from hospitality to commercial real estate and everything in between.
Today, I’ve got Chris Bunch with PRIDE Industries. Why don’t you give the audience a background on who you are.
Chris Bunch (CB): I’m the Vice President for our Commercial Facilities Services line for PRIDE Industries. For us, that’s anything outside of the federal sphere for our facilities work.
I’ve been with PRIDE Industries for ten years. I have a background in the construction trades from the military. Actually, that’s what first introduced me to PRIDE Industries in the first place.
When I first got stationed in California, the first meal brought to me was served by PRIDE Industries employee with a disability. PRIDE Industries also had a paint shop right next door to me at Travis Air Force Base. I then became familiar on how the company would find the right facilities solutions for their customers while creating a social impact.
GH: What is PRIDE Industries? What is your mission?
CB: Our mission is to create employment for people with disabilities. Through our business lines, we provide services in multiple fields, including facilities management.
GH: Can you give me the history of PRIDE Industries?
CB: We started in the basement of the church at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Auburn, California. Our founders were a group of parents with children with developmental disabilities that wanted to create job opportunities for them.
We were a small nonprofit until our late CEO Michael Ziegler transformed us into one of the first social enterprises in the United States. We now provide commercially viable solutions and compete in an open market against companies with no social mission. We operate with the intent to provide high business value propositions while expanding employment for people with disabilities.
Today, we are the largest employer of people with disabilities; 60% of our 6,000 employees have a disclosed disability. No matter which field we operate in, we help our customer’s goals come true. And we’re just getting started.
GH: What industries do you specialize in?
CB: Our facilities services are divided into federal and commercial sectors. We provide landscaping, custodial, ONM services, and capital project services for both. And we also have an emerging line in critical and renewable energies, including a focus on generators, battery backup, and solar energies. PRIDE Industries aims to be a solution provider for 80% of operating expenses that happen in the life cycle of a building after it’s built.
GH: What are your latest goals and initiatives?
CB: Growth, especially in custodial, landscaping, project services, and critical and renewable services. We’re currently in 15 states and Washington, D.C., but for our commercial facilities line, we are concentrated in California (as our organization is licensed here). We’re focusing on leveraging our federal footprint to provide commercial solutions to customers nationwide—bringing not only a social good, but exemplary business services.
GH: What what’s different about hiring PRIDE Industries?
CB: We’re excellent at providing operational excellence in the buildings and services that are timely and on budget. We guide our customers on how to create long-term investments that will drive their maintenance costs down, including cost-effective landscaping, identifying the best cleaning technologies, and improving building air quality. Ultimately, we excel at connecting our services to help our customers’ missions. It’s about providing a good solution, a great value, and high-quality service delivery.
Our inclusive workforce of employees with disabilities also sets us apart—creating higher retention and employee engagement. For example, most custodial employers experience as much as 300% turnover in a year, and our most demanding account experiences a 67% turnover rate.
GH: So are your teams out there full-time, 40 hours a week?
CB: That’s correct. Creating a successful inclusive environment includes a consistent and predictable work schedule. PRIDE Industries completes special, one-time projects, usually with partnerships from outside contractors.
There is also a positive secondary effect that carries over to our customers. For example, at the Sacramento International Airport, we have an employee named Eric McCullough, who has received over a hundred customer feedback messages. Many of our customers report stories like this.
GH: Over 50% of current facilities management employees will be at retirement age within the next five to seven years. What are your plans to keep up your staffing levels?
CB: Partnering with other organizations, including agreements with multiple unions and introducing more people with disabilities to skilled trades and formal apprenticeships. Also, a focus on recruiting from the veteran community and placing them into facilities asset management roles. It’s about filling the pipeline and creating a pathway to those roles.
Currently one in four people in the United States has a disability, and most are unemployed. It’s important for companies to rethink their hiring strategies. Rarely does an accommodation for a disability cost more than $500. And that’s much less than the cost of turnover.
GH: If I want to get involved, what are the next steps to work with PRIDE Industries?
CB: If you’re listening to this and are looking for a solution, we can offer comprehensive services from your curb to the rooftop with quality and excellence. And by doing so, you make your culture better and increase your social standing for your investors.
GH: Chris, before I let you go, who or what has had the biggest impact on your career?
CB: I’d have to throw a shout-out to Don Nelson. He is the Vice President of our Federal Facilities Services and brought me out of the construction world to PRIDE Industries ten years ago.
GH: Chris, I certainly appreciate you appearing on the podcast. What your organization is doing is amazing.
CB: Thanks so much, Griffin.