Dan Boucher, who retired earlier this year as executive chairman of IFB Solutions, received the 2017 Robert B. Irwin Award from National Industries for the Blind (NIB) in recognition of his nearly 50 years of service creating employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. The award is the highest honor given by NIB, the nation’s largest employment resource for people who are blind.

“Throughout his storied career, Dan has provided dynamic leadership and dedicated service to National Industries for the Blind and our associated nonprofit agencies, including IFB Solutions and many others who benefited from his work,” said Kevin Lynch, NIB President and CEO. “His sincere interest and outstanding commitment to improving independence for people who are blind will always hold a special place in the history of NIB and the AbilityOne ® Program.”

Prior to joining IFB Solutions in 1996 as President and CEO, Boucher was Vice President of Marketing for NIB where he began working in 1969. During his tenure at NIB, Boucher helped grow business and employment opportunities for NIB’s nationwide network of associated agencies. He launched NIB’s writing instruments program with the SKILCRAFT ® U.S. Government pen and the office products line which opened new avenues for agencies to produce additional items and create jobs. Boucher also launched the AbilityOne Base Supply Centers™ operated by NIB’s associated agencies and located on military installations and some federal buildings. Today, the AbilityOne Base Supply Centers employ hundreds of individuals who are blind and also sell many of the office products made by the associated agencies which, in turn, create s new manufacturing jobs.

When Boucher joined IFB Solutions in 1996, then known as Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind, the nonprofit had fewer than 70 employees and was facing financial challenges. He quickly assembled a team to generate new revenue and additional jobs. A key priority was IFB’s optical business which was struggling to gain momentum in the industry. With Boucher’s guidance, IFB built an enduring reputation as a quality, on-time supplier. Today, IFB’s optical team produces nearly 1,200 pairs of eyeglasses per day and employs more than 50 individuals who are blind. Boucher also is credited with launching IFB’s Impulse Marketing Program which packages and distributes items to military commissaries around the world, and with expanding IFB’s footprint to Little Rock, Ark. with the acquisition of Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind in 2014.

In addition to his business acumen, Boucher was a visionary for growing IFB’s services in the community including the Low Vision Center in Winston Salem, which has now expanded to Asheville, Arkansas and Durham. Dan was also instrumental in the construction of Tracy’s Little Red Schoolhouse in Winston-Salem as a home of IFB’s Student Enrichment Experience (SEE) and other independent living resources for both children and adults.

In 2007, when Boucher transitioned to executive chairman and David Horton became President and CEO, IFB had $80 million in sales and gaining national recognition as the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the United States. At the close of its most recent 2017 fiscal year, IFB had more than 460 employees who are blind or visually impaired and tallied $140 million in sales.