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Job seekers flock to job fair
Between 1,400 and 1,500 people turned out Wednesday for the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s annual job fair at the National Guard Armory in Martinsville. Forty employers were represented at the fair, with more than 1,500 jobs available, according to Witt. Despite an early downpour, Witt said the fair was a success. “Our employers were happy,” she said. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
What seemed like an endless line of job seekers wound around the National Guard Armory on Wednesday for the annual job fair sponsored by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.
“We had between 1,400 and 1,500 people” who hoped to get a job from one of the 40 employers represented at the job fair, according to Amanda Witt, president of the chamber.
A brief downpour around 11 a.m. cut somewhat into attendance, she said.
“I’m sure we lost a lot of people because when it started raining, it poured, and if they didn’t have an umbrella, they got soaked,” Witt said. “But I am so pleased with the turnout. It was a tremendous group. Our employers were happy, the seekers were happy. I know I heard some people walk away from interviews with start dates” for new jobs, Witt said.
Employers represented various sectors, including retail, Witt said.
“This is the first time we’ve really pulled in” the retail sector, “and that’s exciting,” she said.
Employers also came from manufacturing, health services, customer service and many others fields. There were so many, Witt said, “I don’t care who you are. There’s a job here for everyone.”
The job fair began at 9 a.m. but Larry Law of Martinsville said he arrived at 6:15 a.m. He was first in line in hopes of getting a “good paying job with insurance,” he said.
Currently, he said he is working two jobs to try to make ends meet, but “I want something everlasting. Eastman Chemical is my goal,” he said, adding that he wanted to get a job there as a machine operator.
Law, who originally is from Cascade, said he had spent several years in a similar position at Procter & Gamble while he was living elsewhere. “But my parents got gravely ill and I had to come back home,” he said.
Since he was first in line, Law also was among the first to visit some of the 40 prospective employers, including eBay Enterprise, Kimball Hospitality, Shenandoah Furniture Inc., Drake Extrusion, Ply-Gem Windows, Nilit, Invista and ICF International.
“I’m looking for Eastman. Have you seen them?” he asked.
Law said that while the possibility of securing a job with Eastman was “the main reason I came, I’m still getting some contacts. I still want Eastman.” But he added that he was willing to consider other opportunities.
John Hardy of Ridgeway also had a long wait in line. “I got here about 6:30 (a.m.). I’m second in line,” he said. Hardy has been hired for a job that he will start Monday, but he said he hoped to better himself at the job fair.
“The pay don’t matter. It’s the benefits,” such as health insurance that Hardy said he hoped to get. “I’m just looking for a straight-up job. I was the assistant plant manager at Nationwide” Homes before that company downsized its workforce.
Hardy said he is looking “for a career job” and hoped he would be hired to work at Commonwealth Laminating. “That’s what I’m shooting for,” he said. “That’s a career job.”
Martinsville resident Brian Law said he does “a little landscaping work with a friend, but I hurried up and came up here about 7” a.m. in hopes of getting a manufacturing or warehousing job. “I don’t mind standing” in line. “I’m just looking for anything right now; anything with benefits,” he added.
Law said he was “surprised to see all these people” seeking jobs. “They say the community is doing good, but it don’t seem like it. There’s so many people here,” he said, as he ventured a few steps from his spot to see the line of job seekers stretched down the sidewalk, winding through the parking lot — in front of, down the side of and behind the Armory.
Mick Waid of Martinsville said he is unemployed and hoped to find a job in manufacturing.
“I’ve done learned by now that any one company, you can’t rely on” for long-term employment, Waid said. “My last real, real, real job was at Hooker Furniture.”
Since that job went overseas, Waid said he’s had “part-time and temp jobs there and there, but part-time and temp jobs don’t make it.”
Armed with his new degree in administration of justice, Bill Dalton hoped the past two years he spent at Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) would pay off.
He lost his job at Stanley Furniture when that company moved. He took advantage of Trade Act benefits to continue his education and earned his degree last week. On Wednesday, Dalton, 53, said he hoped to get a job as a machinist with Drake Extrusion.
Martinsville resident Ondreen Carter arrived at the job fair early and hoped to get a job that will help him pay for his continued education at National Business College.
A June graduate of Martinsville High School, Carter said he begins college classes on Sept. 16.
“I prefer manufacturing, but as of now, I’ll take any job I can get,” he said.
His mother, Senora Carter, has spent the past few years working at fast food restaurants such as Hardee’s and McDonald’s while continuing her education at PHCC.
Also of Martinsville, Senora Carter said she earned her associate in accounting degree/medical billing and coding in May, and also has a certificate in business administration.
She hopes to get a job in office/accounting/managing with benefits “and higher pay” than she had been getting, she said.
Stephanie Mullen and Raheem Hayes, both of Bassett, spent minutes as the last two people in line before several others came up and joined the line behind them.
Both were looking for jobs in food services, according to Mullen, who said she was shocked by the number of people in line.
“I thought it stopped right over there,” she said, pointing to the side of the armory. “I was wrong,” she added.
“I am so glad people came out,” Witt said. “It will be a great outcome to fill these jobs,” provide employees for companies and “get people back to work,” she said.