After father dies of COVID-19, local business owner offers employees incentive to get vaccine

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 4:46 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2021 at 6:11 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsinites have about a week left to capitalize on a $100 reward from the state to get the covid-19 vaccine, but one local business owner is taking it a step further by offering $300 to all employees who show proof of getting the vaccine by mid-October.

“He started these companies from nothing and they’ve grown quite large,” said Jerry Ort, owner of Aacer Flooring, Tigerton Lumber, and Wittenberg Hardwoods.

Ort said his dad was a workaholic.

“He still came in four days a week,” said Ort. “That’s what his passion was, was work.”

Following in his footsteps, Ort keeps the family business running and it’s been a tough year for his 210 employees. He usually has about 300.

“Right now with COVID and some of the other employment problems, we just haven’t been able to hit the numbers. So production has suffered,” said Ort.

In an effort to keep his employees healthy, he’s offering all of them $300 if they get the covid-19 vaccine.

“All you got to do is show us proof that you’ve been vaccinated. If it was six months ago or whenever, you can come in and you’re still eligible,” said Ort. “After they get vaccinated, their name goes into a raffle for $1,000. There’s going to be nine raffles, so your chances of winning are pretty good.”

Even though he believes in the FDA-approved vaccine, he doesn’t believe in requiring it of employees.

“I don’t think that’s really gonna motivate people,” said Ort. “It’s been very it’s been so divisive, and I don’t want to pit people against each other. I want to help people and give them the option and I think this is probably the best way I can motivate them to get it done.”

Ort said his dad would have made a similar offer.

“There’s no doubt in my mind. My dad would get the vaccine if he had the opportunity,” said Ort. “Like I said he always got the flu shot, you know, and that was important to him. So yeah, he would have got it.”

However, the vaccine wasn’t available yet when Ort’s father was hospitalized after contracting COVID last fall.

“Last October, my father passed away from COVID, and that was, that was really hard,” said Ort. “I said goodbye to him on a zoom call and that’s where my passion for this comes from. I just don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.”

Ort hopes this inspires other business leaders to get creative and ‘come up with something that works well for them.”

He said no one should have to go through what his family has had this past year.

“I miss him,” said Ort. “There’s a lot of exciting things happening right now in our companies and it’d be nice if he was here to see it.”

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