Speaker: Give felons a chance

First Posted: 1/22/2015

LIMA — Daniel Hardiman doesn’t hire ex-offenders. He interviews them.

That has led him to hire about 300 of them in the past five years. Hardiman owns five Tim Hortons restaurants in Columbus and began hiring ex-offenders by mistake a few years ago.

On Thursday, he spoke to about 50 area business people about why they should do the same.

“I want employers to leave here saying they’re going to do what they can to hire one and give it a fair shake,” he said.

The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties hosted the lunch with Hardiman, CEO of True North Companies, who began hiring felons due to a mistake a few years ago.

When he found out two of his employees had felonies on their records, he thought “Oh my, what did I do.” He was promoting them when he found out they hadn’t filled out their applications correctly.

His wife and business partner encouraged him to back them up, no matter what they had done.

“‘They were great people,’” she said to him. That’s when “we started changing our mentality,” he said.

It started with those two, and then they hired five or six and it “snowballed from there,” Hardiman said.

The great thing about ex-offenders is they are harder workers because they have a lot more to lose and a lot more to prove, he said. They also mean a tax credit for the company.

But even more, they come with a built-in support system someone’s mother can’t even replicate, he said.

The prosecutor, the judge, the lawyer, parole officer, probation officer and their families are encouraging them to keep working and not get another strike against them. They’re also keeping the ex-offender in line.

“I will take ex-offenders any day and twice on Sunday,” over a non-offender, Hardiman said. That’s because with ex-offenders there is lower theft, lower turnover, higher retention, easier training and the support system, he said.

Hardiman said “it’s awesome” to watch his employees succeed.

“It makes it easier to speak at events like this,” he said. He’s seen his former employees go on to higher-paying jobs. He’s a stepping stone, and he knows and accepts that.

Then, they come back and say “I had to have some experience between the prison gates and the front door of my job,” he said, and he gave it to them.