Arizona Giving and Leading: AguaSAC

More from this show

A Phoenix company is on a mission to employ more adults with developmental disabilities. We’ll take you to AguaSAC where you’ll meet employees and learn why some say adults with developmental disabilities are more loyal than other workers.

Ted Simons: Bottled water is big business. U.S. consumption of bottled water topped 11 billion gallons last year according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. But a new company based in Phoenix is planning to make a splash in the crowded market thanks in large part to its employees. Producer Christina Estes explains.

Christina Estes: At first glance this building comes across as pretty ordinarily. But a closer look and listen --


-- reveals some remarkable work.

Andrew Lascurain handles filling, capping and labeling for AguaSAC. The company sells collapsible plastic pouches filled with artisan spring water.

Andrew Lascurian: The hardest job is trying to get the pump to work without spilling.

Christina Estes: When package engineer Liesl Harder Kielp created aguaSAC, she planned to sell it to the big guys, but then she met these guys.

Liesl Harder Kielp: There are a plethora of very talented individuals who are in need of jobs.

Christina Estes: Andrew became AguaSAC's first hire through ValleyLife, a nonprofit that provides job training for adults with developmental disabilities.

Liesl Harder Kielp: If you want to work you should be able to find a job that's meaningful to you.

Christina Estes: Jennifer Baier oversees Valleylife's employment program, she says the jobless rate for people with developmental disabilities are at least double the state average.
Jennifer Baier: I think employers are somewhat fearful of the unknown. So they're thinking we got to make a lot of changes, and usually it doesn't involve a lot of changes to get someone with a disability to be successful in a workplace, its usually just a matter of training and giving that support at the front end.

Liesl Harder Kielp: This is a production facility, we receive our water, we pump it from the tanker into our tanks. We filter it twice. That purifies our water. That's where we do our filling. Then it comes over to the label table.

Andrew Lascurian: Oh, good, I'm good at that. You just stick it on and then it becomes easy.

Christina Estes: While Liesl is proud of her company's environmental benefits.

Liesl Harder Kielp: -- we can order 300,000 sacks and that takes up one semi, that same 300,000 in bottles would take up about nine semis.

Christina Estes: She's most proud of the people behind the product.

Liesl Harder Kielp: I love Andrew, we love Andrew, everybody loves Andrew.

Jennifer Baier: We are getting them engaged in something that matters to them, getting them out there, they are making purchases, buying things for their job, buying food and out there contributing to society.

Andrew Lascurian: We're all the same. And I'm so glad I came here because, well, I would be at home doing nothing.

Jennifer Baier: There's nothing like that feeling of somebody saying, I got the job. I got the job I wanted, I'm making money, I'm proud of myself.

Christina Estes: Jennifer heard that 57 times last year. That's how many people she says ValleyLife placed with an average starting wage of nearly $10.50 an hour.

Jennifer Baier: That is population that stays with the job they have as long as it's the right fit.

Liesl Harder Kielp: Okay, up higher -- there you go.

Jennifer Baier: There's that sense of accountability and loyalty that you don't always seem to get with somebody that might not have a disability.

The number of people with disabilities looking for jobs will likely grow, Arizona has more than one million students in k-12 public schools, according to the national center for education statistics, 13% of public school students have disabilities that require special services.

Liesl Harder Kielp: They need jobs. This is not hard to do. It's a little crazy but not hard.

Andrew Lascurian: Yes, ma'am.

Christina Estes: Liesl hopes to open an AguaSAC facility in every state and fill them with more workers like Andrew.

Andrew Lascurian: Cool!

Ted Simons: ValleyLife trains an average of 200 people every year. You can learn more about their employment opportunities at

We want to hear from you. Submit your questions and comments and concerns via email at [email protected]. Thursday on "Arizona Horizon" it's time for our annual supreme court review, we will look higher profile cases and reviews from the just-depleted session. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: