In our City of Good Neighbors, we find many stories of people and businesses who open their doors and lend a hand to those in need, especially those who have come here in search of a better life. Larry Christ, chief operating officer of Litelab Corporation at 251 Elm St., is one of those people. He says his company hires immigrants and refugees intentionally, and he appreciates the connections he makes to refugees/immigrants through International Institute.
Of some 160 employees at this privately held company that manufactures busway and track lighting products for architectural, suspended ceiling, and big-box grid commercial applications, about 30 percent of his workforce have come to Buffalo by way of extreme hardship, said Christ.
“At Litelab, we hire for character and train for skill,” Christ said. They work at every level of the company, and refugees/immigrants contribute to the company in wonderfully meaningful ways.
“They are ambitious in spirit, and they have a mindset to do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Christ said. “They have a voracious desire to learn. These are the kinds of employees Litelab seeks.
“They are a gift to us,” he continued. “Because of them, Litelab is diverse, a multicultural setting where we all thrive and learn from each other.” Christ is moved by the stories his employees tell of how they fled violence in their country and sought refuge in Buffalo and a better life for their families.
He will never forget the young man who arrived at Litelab for an interview, riding a bicycle in the middle of February. A kitchen dish rack was strapped to the front of his handlebars as a makeshift basket.
Another man was one of only nine survivors on board an Iraqi warship that was sunk by U.S. fire; he was in the water for eight hours before being rescued. His whole family died. Another man lost his wife and their two children to rebel forces.
“They all have a story of depth,” he said, “Horatio Alger stories. At Litelab, they teach us about other parts of the world and their unbelievable transitions through life. It’s humbling for me to hear their stories, to work with them, and to share in their successes.”
Four Litelab employees recently became U.S. citizens and they celebrated with a cake decorated with red, white, and blue flags.
“At Litelab, it’s not about ‘them’ versus ‘us’; it’s ‘all of us’ in this together, this thing called humanity.”