White House turns to local company on hiring felons

Butterball Farms located at 1435 Buchanan Avenue SW in Grand Rapids on Dec. 23, 2016.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A company in West Michigan has been tapped by the White House to help with its Fair Chance Pledge. The Obama administration has been pushing business to sign the pledge, which states they will hire felons after they have been released from prison.

Butterball Farms in Grand Rapids has been doing just that for the past 20 years.

“I think employment is so important to the success of returning citizens,” said Bonnie Mroczek the Chief Talent Officer at Butterball Farms.

At Butterball Farms, they are not called felons, they are called returning citizens.

“The reason we started it was because we needed to expand our applicant pool, we were having trouble filling our positions,” Mroczek said.

Butterball Farms is a specialty butter processor, making things like butter roses and flavored butter for top chefs around the country. They have about 150 employees and in the last four-years returning citizen have accounted for anywhere between 35 and 55 percent of their new hires.

The turnover rate among returning citizens usually accounts for 38 to 50 percent of all turnover. It’s never been higher than the turnover rate of the non-felons they hire.

“From a business perspective it makes a lot of business sense, they are some of the most engaged, committed, skilled employees that we have. That is why we are so committed to get the word out to other companies that they should also follow the practice,” Mroczek said.

In August, Mroczek got a call from the White House inviting her to a roundtable to talk about what they have been doing at Butterball Farms. She went and at the table with her, mega companies like Uber, American Airlines and Google.

To companies not currently hiring felons, Mroczek said she would say this to them: “I think you need to try it, I think you need to review cases on a case by case basis.”

Butterball Farms is so passionate about hiring returning citizens they asked other West Michigan companies to give it a shot and let butterball track the success.

They just collected data from 479 companies in West Michigan that stepped up and hired 1,079 felons over the past two years. They are still crunching the numbers to measure success but all 479 companies say they will continue the practice.

“People can change. I think we all appreciate when we are given grace, it can be a little more difficult to extend it sometime. To those companies that are not currently hiring returning citizen, I suggest taking a small step,” Mroczek said.

Mroczek said any company looking to start hiring returning citizens can contact Butterball Farms and they will help start the process or answer any questions.

If you know anyone looking for a job, Butterball Farms is hiring.