TROY — After 36 years in the same field, RT Industries CEO Blair Brubaker is retiring from the job that helped him find his direction in life.
Brubaker’s last day at the non-profit, a partner agency of Riverside Developmental Disabilities that provides employment opportunities for adults with disabilities, is Dec. 31.
After graduating from high school in 1973, Brubaker felt aimless and uncertain about his future. He was working for his father’s business, Brubaker’s Interiors, when a delivery of donated carpet samples to Riverside changed the course of his life.
He dropped off the samples and was given a tour by one of the employees, who talked him into volunteering.
“About six months later, my dad sat me down and said, ‘Blair, you’re spending more time volunteering than you are working for me. This is telling you something,’” Brubaker recalled.
Impressed by the services Riverside offered, especially for the adults, he knew for the first time what career he wanted to pursue. Brubaker attended Miami University and after graduation, and sent out only one resume.
“That was in 1981 and they hired me,” he said. “That’s how my career started. From dropping off some donated items and then volunteering after that.”
RT Industries, which incorporated in 1974, works to develop employment opportunities for Miami County residents with disabilities. The agency serves more than 200 adults in the county, through community employment and job development, adult day services, volunteer opportunities and more.
A lot has changed in the developmental disabilities services field in 36 years, Brubaker said. The agency serves more people now than in the past and provides more opportunities and services.
“We do a variety of things that the public is probably not aware of,” he said. “We have 80 people who come in here every day to work in our production facility, we provide job coaches for the career center, we take care of the roadside rest areas … the menu of services and options they can choose from has increased dramatically.”
RT Industries also operates adult day services, offering outings and activities, volunteer opportunities, art classes and more.
“I think we have a lot to be proud of,” Brubaker said.
There has also been a statewide push to privatize services for adults with disabilities, Brubaker said. Beginning in January, RT Industries is set to be completely privatized, although it will continue to receive partial funding from Riverside Developmental Disabilities. The county has worked for the last 10 years to plan for privatization, he said.
”A business like RT Industries isn’t successful unless the people that we serve are,” he said. “Just seeing all the success stories, whether it’s getting a job in the community, whether it’s being able to do a task. I mean, we serve such a wide range of individuals that each person has their own successes. And that’s been great.”
Over the years, Brubaker said he’s enjoyed hearing from employers in the community who are pleased with the employees RT Industries has trained and seeing employers appreciate their capabilities.
“The people we serve are so much more like us than they are unlike us,” he said.
Once RT Industries gets their “foot in the door” with an employer in the community, employment opportunities typically expand. “But, boy, is it hard to get our foot in the door sometimes,” he added.
He’s also enjoyed getting to spend time with the people RT Industries serves.
“I’ve know many of these people since they were kids,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic experience, it really has. I consider myself very, very fortunate.”
With retirement just a few weeks away, Brubaker said has no concrete plans for retirement beyond taking the opportunity to relax.
“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife, though I’m not sure you’d hear the same thing from her,” he joked.
The Piqua native lives in Troy with his wife and they enjoy the outdoors and traveling, especially road trips.
“He will be truly missed,” incoming CEO Ashley Brocious said of Brubaker. “He’s like a celebrity around here. You can see how people run to him when he comes in the door.”
She also pointed out the honors and awards he’s been given in recent months, including a letter from Congressman Warren Davidson and recognition from State Sen. Bill Beagle. Brubaker was also one of the first recipients of the Ohio Association of Adult Services’ and Provider Support Group’s Lifetime Member Award.
“It means a lot,” he said.
Brocious, a Fletcher resident, worked for RT Industries for about a year before being named as the non-profit’s next leader. Since then, she and Brubaker have worked closely together to prepare for the transition.
“I have a very content feeling,” he said. “RT will be in good hands for years and years to come.”
On his last day of work, Brubaker said he hopes to be the last person to leave the building.
“I want to be the last one here, for it to be dark,” he said. “I’ll have my little box ready and I’ll be the last one out the door.”
Reach Cecilia at firstname.lastname@example.org.