Between 700 and 800 people turned out Wednesday for a job fair at the National Guard Armory, according to Amanda Witt, president of Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.
Included in that number were about 300 former employees of MasterBrand Cabinets. The company closed its facility in the Patriot Center at Beaver Creek industrial park in Henry County on Friday, which prompted the chamber and other groups to sponsor the job fair.
The line began forming at the job fair before 9 a.m., Witt said. By the time the fair started at 10, the line spanned nearly the entire front of the building to the parking lot on Commonwealth Boulevard.
“We were hoping for this kind of turnout,” Witt added.
Forty employers from the region participated, and just more than 300 positions were available, she said.
According to Witt, Ply Gem Windows in Rocky Mount hired three people on the spot at the fair, which continued until 2 p.m.
“Some people are leaving here with jobs or interviews” scheduled for next week, she said. The total number of people hired will be unknown until all interviews are complete, she added.
All of the employers were impressed with the number of potential employees that came as well as the number of skill sets each potential employee possessed, Witt said.
The employers told Witt that it was one of the best job fairs they have seen in a while, she added.
Waiting in line at the job fair, everyone had their own story on why they desperately need a job.
Diane Hall was a sales operator at MasterBrand for seven years. This is her third time being laid off from a company; in the past, she has been laid off from VF and New Roads, she said.
When she heard that MasterBrand was closing, Hall said she thought, “here we go again.” The news was like a rug had been pulled out from under them because they weren’t expecting it, she added.
There was no particular position that Hall was looking for Wednesday. She wanted to see what each company had to offer and “see where it goes from here,” she said.
“I hope it will all work out for the better for all of us,” Hall said.
Courtney Grant, who has been unemployed for three months after being laid off from GSI, was seeking work at the job fair. A month before leaving GSI, she was laid off from Springs, she said.
Being unemployed is “really hard because you can’t be independent like you want to” due to having to depend on other people to get by, Grant said.
“If it wasn’t for my family, I don’t know what I’d do,” she added.
Since being unemployed, Grant continually calls Ameristaff and Debbie’s Staffing to see if any jobs have come open, but nothing ever seems to be available, she said.
She said that she could go back to school and possibly study nursing. She planned to talk to representatives of Patrick Henry Community College at the job fair, but her main priority was to speak with employers.
“I’d rather find a job right now,” she said.
Wayne Holland, a former employee of MasterBrand, made sure to come to the fair prepared in case he was interviewed for a job.
Along with being dressed to impress, Holland had his résumés and letters of recommendation in hand.
“Hopefully I will find a job today,” he said, “... We’ll see.”
At MasterBrand, he worked in shipping and receiving, which were the positions he was hoping to apply for at the job fair.
Holland worked for MasterBrand for two and a half years.
“It stinks having to start all over,” he said.
William Young had been out of work for two years until six weeks ago when he got a job at Ply Gem, he said. He decided to come to the job fair to find a job closer to home and one where he can apply what he learned at PHCC, he added.
He was without work after being laid off from Stanley Furniture when it closed. He had worked there driving a forklift and truck for 10 years, he said. Before Stanley, he had worked in maintenance at Dupont for 12 years until it closed, he added.
After working at Stanley Furniture, he attended PHCC where he received a certificate in building trades technology this spring, Young said.
Being unemployed wasn’t easy, but Young made it through by staying with relatives, doing odd jobs and volunteering to occupy his time, he said. He was drawing unemployment, but that ran out in May, he added.
“It’s kind of hard and stressful, but by the grace of God, I’ve made it,” he said.
He has to “hold on and be obedient” because God has a plan for his future, he said.
Some people at the job fair need to find a job or they may have to leave the area.
Amber Hammond lost her job at Hardee’s in February. Since then, she has been looking for a job in retail sales, in which she has 18 years experience, but she keeps getting put on a waiting list, she said.
“It’s hard to find a job,” she said.
If she can’t find one in the next month or so, she will have no choice but to move to South Carolina, where she has friends she can live with, she added.
“I’ll do any job I can possibly get,” Hammond said.
She wants to stay in the Martinsville area because “this community is really good and my son really loves it up here,” she added.
Kurt Davis has been unemployed for four months. He used to work at StarTek and is seeking another customer service position, he said.
To make ends meet, he is managing property, doing odd jobs and getting help from his family, Davis said.
He said the economy is “just so bad” in this area, and it’s discouraging that not many new businesses are coming to the area.
“I’m really close to just packing up and leaving here,” Davis said.
But he probably will not do that because his wife and three children are here and his house here is paid for, so he doesn’t want to start somewhere else, he added.
There was a wide range of jobs available at the job fair.
AC Furniture was seeking office personnel and upholsterers as well as an assembler, CNC (computer numeric control) operator, CNC programmer, cutter, machine operator, shipper and sprayer. There was not a particular number of positions available, but the company is looking to “improve and enhance our current staffing,” said Chief Financial Officer James Anderson.
“Hopefully there are people out there that have what we’re looking for,” he said, adding that the company wants experienced, qualified employees.
The current employees are working overtime, and the company wants to increase staff to prepare for any possible rise in orders, Anderson said.
“I’ve seen a lot of qualified individuals,” Anderson said after meeting with several potential employees throughout the day.
There was a wide spectrum of employees with various skills sets and everyone was knowledgeable in the areas where the AC Furniture is looking into hiring additional staff, he added.
The Prillaman Group Inc., an executive search and consulting firm, was recruiting order pickers, packers, sewing machine operators, forklift operators, construction workers, cake decorators and woodworking and executive search positions. The company had 20 positions available, according to Matt Thurman, vice president of sales and marketing.
Faneuil, a call center in Martinsville, had 15 to 30 customer service representative positions available, according to Dawn Hundley, human resources generalist.
The next job fair will be Sept. 19 at the National Guard Armory. That fair will focus on jobs in the health care and service sectors. No times have been set, Witt said.