LaSonya Jelks and her kids from left: Michael McDuffey, 9, Ronnae Davis, 2, Reyvan Davis, 9 months, and Peyton Jelks, 5, in their Toledo, Ohio home.
LaSonya Jelks is 26, has four children, and has been out of work for two years.
So Ms. Jelks says she's looking for anything to help get her back into the work force.
"I have the help of my family, but it's still hard," Ms. Jelks said. "I feel our community has gone down so bad, and it is starting to get back to a good place, but we need jobs."
Chrysler Group LLC last year announced plans for its Toledo Assembly complex — a long-awaited move that is expected to include $357 million in investment, 1,100 jobs, and an $8 million expansion at the complex's factory that now makes Jeep Liberty vehicles. Chrysler expects to complete its expansion by 2013.
United North, a nonprofit neighborhood group in North Toledo, wants people like Ms. Jelks and other North Toledo residents to have a preference for those new jobs.
"A lot of jobs are coming to Toledo, and many are right here in our backyard," said Terry Glazer, executive director of United North. "It seems to make sense for employers to hire neighborhood people."
To that end, the group has organized what it's calling a "first-of-its-kind job readiness event" Thursday at Woodward High School, beginning at 6 p.m.
Mr. Glazer is hoping hundreds of North Toledo residents will attend the session, where human resource officials of manufacturing firms are to speak about factory jobs, people from The Source are to discuss resume building, and a representative from the Toledo Bar Association is to discuss expunging felony convictions.
There are two caveats for all the job seekers who might be eager to attend the event: It is for North Toledoans only, and Chrysler hasn't agreed to use a local preference in its hiring for those jobs in 2013.
"We want to make sure we get a commitment from Chrysler for a local preference for these jobs," said Ramon Perez, a United North community organizer. "But we also know that our people here have to be ready for these jobs, which won't be here until 2013, so we are making sure that the people who need help can get that help."
That would include instructions on how to get a GED, how to repair credit reports, or even how to pick up basic computer skills to fill out the online application.
Mr. Perez said United North volunteers have knocked on hundreds of doors to tell people about the event. "In many instances, we heard that this was exactly the type of thing we need here," he said.
Mr. Glazer said many of the applicants for the Jeep jobs will be unemployed, like Ms. Jelks, or underemployed. "One place where we have been weak is in increasing the salaries of people in One Village," he said, referring to North Toledo. "Now we have an opportunity to do that, and that is the idea of this job readiness event."
Chrysler spokesman Jodi Tinson said Monday that North Toledoans shouldn't count on a preference for hiring.
"We are looking for the best-qualified candidates, no matter where they live," Ms. Tinson said. "Certainly, our plant is in Toledo and we want to be a good community partner, but our goal is to get the best-quality candidates to work in our plants. It goes back to their qualifications. We are looking at people for skills and competency as opposed to their address."
Mr. Glazer said he won't give up on the idea.
"The first thing we are doing is trying to prepare people for the jobs," he said. "We haven't had any dialogue with Chrysler. We still do believe there are good reasons for hiring qualified neighborhood people. All other things being equal, [it] makes good sense."
Jen Sorgenfrei, spokesman for Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, said his preference would be for Toledoans to receive those jobs, but he recognizes an employer's right and ability to hire the most qualified people.
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