Opportunity

Walmart Driver Delivers a Win at National Championships

He practices nearly every day, honing his skills and aiming to be the best in his field. He’s won numerous competitions, most recently being crowned a national grand champion.

But he’s not an athlete; he’s a truck driver. And the National Truck Driving Championships are his big bowl game.

Mike White of Nineveh, Indiana, has been driving professionally for 39 years, the last 26 of those for Walmart’s private fleet. On Aug. 13, after four days of hard-driving competition in Indianapolis, he was recognized as the most skilled and most knowledgeable in the country.

The 79th annual competition, hosted by the American Trucking Associations, was a nail-biter until the very end. “When my name was called out, it floored me. I didn’t think I was even going to make the top five,” let alone be named the champion, Mike said.

Competitors are made up of the winners in eight classes of competition from 50 state trucking associations’ Truck Driving Championships. Each driver must undergo a written examination, personal interview, pre-trip inspection test and a skills test.

Mike credits his exam and pre-trip scores with getting him into the top five and landing him the 3-axle class title. His run on the skills course put him over the top, securing his bid for overall grand champion.

It’s a game of inches. Mike faced 15 challenges, like maneuvering his big rig within 18 inches of a barrier and rolling between two tightly spaced rows of tennis balls attached to wood stands – bump any of them and lose points, and possibly the title. There was also a “road kill” challenge where drivers had to get the right front tire as close as possible to, but not touching, a rubber duck sitting in the roadway.

“It was such a surprise – that was the best part,” Mike said of his big win. “This wasn’t just for my home state of Indiana; it was for me, my family and Walmart.”

It’s also a nod to Mike’s commitment to safe driving. Drivers must be accident free for at least a year prior to the competition. Considering that Mike has been to nationals six times, it’s clear that safety on the road is his priority.

Despite having about 36 competitions under his belt and now the ultimate award, Mike isn’t ready to quit. He’s looking forward to defending his titles in 2017.

That attitude doesn’t surprise Jennifer Gray, regional safety manager for Walmart, who witnessed Mike’s winning moment. “Mike is the true face of our professional Walmart driver, and I have been blessed to be able to work with him for the past four years,” she said after the competition. “He has always had his eye on that prize of being a grand champion one day.”

Geno Bell, senior director of transportation for Walmart, seconded that.

“I’ve known Mike White for over 10 years. He’s a true professional, mentor and a great ambassador of the culture for our private fleet,” Geno said. “Mike practiced and studied hard for the ATA competition, and to see him win it all was AMAZING!”

Mike has earned more than just praise from his leadership – he’s also getting a new semi in the color of his choice.

“Walmart is so proud of their drivers who achieve awards for their expertise in safe driving,” Jennifer explained. “We have a wonderful program to recognize these associates and to also allow the motoring public to recognize when they are sharing the road with one of our safe driving champions.”

It takes time and expertise to earn a personalized truck. The honor is reserved for associates who achieve 3 million and 4 million Walmart safe driving miles, as well as those who are named ATA grand champion or ATA Driver of the Year.

In the meantime, like a seasoned athlete, Mike is back in training mode preparing for the next round of competitions.

“I have a big hill to climb and a lot of people after me,” he said.

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Sustainability

Affordable v. Eco-Friendly: You Shouldn’t Have to Choose

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just walk into a store and be confident the items you purchased were produced in a way that had the least amount of impact on the planet?

While that’s not yet a reality for many consumers, Walmart is trying to get there faster.

Last April, Walmart launched Project Gigaton, a project that invites our merchandise suppliers to join us in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the products they make and the way they make them, taking 1 gigaton (yes, that’s really a word - a billion metric tons) of emissions out of the atmosphere. That’s equal to all the emissions produced from all the homes in California over three years.

Greenhouse gas emissions are compounds that trap heat in the atmosphere and make the earth warmer. When the earth is too warm, it can cause many long-term issues that affect everyday things like the way we grow certain foods and source certain resources.

Not only does Project Gigaton encourage suppliers to remove emissions, it also encourages them to explore ways to improve their products, such as making packaging more recyclable, using less energy, saving customers money and reducing waste.

Taylor Farms is a supplier that makes prepackaged salads and fresh-cut vegetables for our Marketside private brand. With their chopped salads and stir fry kits, they found a way to reduce food waste by using the whole crop, meaning that 100% of the edible veggies get chopped up and nothing is discarded in the production process.

Taylor Farms has been dedicated to the development of new harvesting methods, engineering automated harvesting machines. In comparison to harvesting by hand, the uniformity and consistency of automated harvesting leads to higher yields and shipment of 100% usable products to their processing facilities. In addition to Taylor Farms, we are excited to have a growing number of suppliers joining Project Gigaton, working on things like reducing pesticides and fertilizers needed to grow food, making factories more efficient or using renewable energy like solar or wind turbines.

Walmart also recently announced we’ll further our efforts to reduce chemicals of concern, like formaldehyde and phthalates, from consumable products sold in Walmart and Sam’s Clubs U.S. stores by 10% by 2022, becoming the first U.S. retailer to set a time-bound reduction goal. This applies to items like household cleaners, cosmetics, skincare and infant products, among others.

I’m proud that work like this puts us in the company of other organizations doing great things. Walmart was recently recognized on Fortune’s Change the World list, as one of 50 featured companies making social benefit part of their core business.

No one should have to choose between products they can afford and products that are good for the environment. As more of our suppliers join in our goal to sell products that are good for people and the planet, it will become easier for more families to buy products they know are produced as sustainably as possible.

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Opportunity

How Tech is Powering New Paths for One 23-Year-Old

At the age of 23, Luis Gomez is already doing the kind of work he’s always dreamed of.

Three years ago, Luis was a college student and working as a Walmart cashier, with an IT job on the side to make extra money. He took the first step toward his goal of working in tech for Walmart and applied for a job in server operations at the home office. Today, he’s a cybersecurity associate at the David Glass Technology Center.

“The biggest piece of advice I have for anyone just starting out in their career is to take every opportunity that comes your way,” he said. “If you’ve never done something, try it anyway. We’re all moving forward.”

Check out this video to see how a career in tech is not only powering Luis’s dreams, but is inspiring his family and co-workers to do even more for theirs.

Looking for tech jobs like Luis’s? Check out our careers site to see what positions are currently available.

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Community

In the Aftermath of a Disaster, Food Banks Help Communities Heal

It’s hard to prepare yourself to visit a community that’s been affected by disaster.

The week after Hurricane Harvey hit, I visited the Houston area to help Feeding America member organization, Houston Food Bank, with relief efforts. Despite learning as much as possible about the hurricane’s impact before I left, I was still shocked by what I saw – the good and bad alike.

Driving around the neighborhoods, I saw entire contents of people’s homes piled curbside. It had all been ruined in the flooding and needed to be discarded. I met several people who told me through tears that they’d lost everything – including Rosalba, a mother who, along with her five children, rode out the storm in a pickup truck, praying for safety as the water rose. The house she had been renting was no longer livable. With nowhere to go, Rosalba and her family had been sleeping in that same truck, parked on the front lawn of what remains of their home. Her landlord said the home would take six to nine months to renovate, so Rosalba was desperately trying to find a place for her family to live in the meantime.

I met Rosalba at a local food pantry that was distributing supplies and food to hundreds of people impacted by Harvey. She and her daughter were there to pick up ready-to-eat meals and toiletries to help them get by. They were extremely grateful for the support in this unexpected time of need.

When I visited The Houston Food Bank, it was overflowing with donations and volunteers. There were boxes upon boxes of donated supplies waiting to be delivered. I was there only five days after the food bank re-opened, and already, more than 5,000 people had been through its doors to volunteer. The community – and country – is truly banding together to help people rebuild.

Feeding America’s network of food banks reaches every county in every corner of our nation—making us uniquely prepared to respond in the event of a disaster. Within hours we are able to quickly deploy trucks and other solutions to help in communities where we already operate. From preparing for disasters before they hit, to responding during the disaster, to supporting families and communities through recovery, we offer food and hope for families as they seek to return to normalcy.

Food banks in Texas have provided essential supplies to people in need, including water, boxes of food and personal hygiene and cleaning items. They’ve also provided support to transitional shelters. Food banks farther away have helped, too, by pitching in to offer product, vehicles and other assistance as needed.

For me, it was humbling to be in Houston – meeting storm survivors and volunteers and seeing firsthand how much of a difference the Feeding America network was really making in people’s lives. It reminded me why I am passionate about the work that we do.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have been instrumental in relief efforts. Their commitment of over $37 million for hurricane response over the past few months includes specific contributions to Feeding America and its member food banks to help those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. With this support, we’ll be able to help even more food and supplies get to communities in need.

Even with this outpouring of support, there’s still so much more to be done. For thousands of families like Rosalba’s, it will take time to recover. But I’m hopeful that with continued support, everyone who has been impacted will be able to get back on their feet a little sooner.

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U.S. Manufacturing

RedHead Wine is Raising a Glass to Family Traditions

Family traditions can tell us so much about where we come from, and play a big part in who we become and what we bring to the world. I come from a family of winemakers.

My grandparents, Dominic and Michele Sergi, both emigrated from Italy at the age of 14, bringing the tradition of winemaking with them to Lowellville, Ohio. My grandfather started out by buying California grapes from railcars just outside of Youngstown, Ohio, which he used to make wine to share with his friends and family. My father, Frank Sergi, learned the craft from him. Frank and my mother, Ruth, opened a winery and bistro in Youngstown called L’uva Bella (“the beautiful grape” in Italian), and it still successfully serves the community today.

For me, I wanted to create something of my own that would bring people together the same way my family’s winery does. I spent four years at Cornell University learning enology and viticulture, the study of winemaking and grape-growing, and working with our team at L’uva Bella. With a passion for the industry and a technical expertise, I created my own wine label, RedHead Wine. I’ve been very fortunate that I got it right and consumers enjoy its unique blend.

After months of selling it at local stores and regional outlets, I learned first-hand how rewarding sharing something you’ve made yourself can be. I knew I wanted to do more of it. When I heard about Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Open Call event, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put our product on more shelves and on the tables of more people – something that Walmart’s size could help me accomplish.

In June, I presented my RedHead Red Blend to their buyer and was approved to test it in all 150-plus stores in Ohio. As of today, it’s available in 30 stores throughout Ohio and we expect to expand into Michigan stores in early 2018.

As a result, we are expecting additional growth at L’uva Bella winery, with the potential to increase production by almost four times and create new jobs for us in Youngstown.

I’m so grateful this new opportunity allows me to leverage my passion for wine and share our RedHead brand products with even more people. It’s personally fulfilling and rewarding to make a product that contributes to the celebration some of life’s happiest moments and often plays a part in bringing people together.

Growing my business and extending the legacy of my family’s artisan craft is a journey that has opened many doors for me, and I truly can’t wait to see what happens next.

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