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Published: Saturday, 5/2/2009

Some 5,000 people seeking work crowd Maumee event

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The Toledo Job Fair didn't have jobs for everyone. In fact, it didn't have enough jobs for the vast majority of the people who crowded into the center. But it did offer something that has been in short supply as the region's economic troubles have worsened: hope for a better day.

"I want to look at Xunlight [Corp.]. That's new technology, and that's where the action is," said Beverly Barnhill of Toledo, who was rare among those who walked through the door in that she has a job.

"I'm underemployed," explained Ms. Barnhill, who said she'd spent an entire career as an executive assistant. "That's all I've ever done, and I've never wanted to do anything else. I'm just hoping there's someone here who will be able to use my full abilities."

Many employers were accepting applications and resumes either for immediate openings or for future use.

The longest line of job-seekers was in front of the Xunlight booth, as the Toledo firm is hiring dozens of people to help make solar panels for commercial use.

Curtis Phifer returned Friday to his native Lucas County from his home in Blissfield, Mich., with a simple mission: "I'm just trying to support my family," the 35-year-old said.

Beverly Barnhill of Toledo already has a job but says she wanted to see what options were available to her. The fair drew people from at least as far as Lima, Ohio, and suburban Detroit. Beverly Barnhill of Toledo already has a job but says she wanted to see what options were available to her. The fair drew people from at least as far as Lima, Ohio, and suburban Detroit.
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Like many others at the job fair, Mr. Phifer has been out of work for about a year. He patiently stood in a throng of job seekers for the chance to speak to someone at Xunlight, the solar-panel making start-up.

The fair drew people from far outside of metro Toledo, from at least as far as Lima, Ohio, to suburban Detroit. Many said they had been out of work for a year or more, and included younger and older workers.

The Source, The Blade, and WTOL-TV Channel 11 were among the sponsors of the fair.

Each company, school, or organization at the event had different methods of interacting with the job seekers. Some collected resumes; others asked potential employees to fill out applications, and others just handed out literature or pointed them to Web sites on which they could submit applications.

Still others offered classes and training for new careers.

"There are just so many people that just want to work," said Jerry Austin, the superintendent of transportation for TARTA, which was trying to fill about 20 full-time and part-time positions. Mr. Austin said he was "amazed" at the quality of applicants who were filling out applications for jobs with the transit agency.

Thousands of people waited in a line that stretched a quarter mile or more to attend the job fair held Friday in Maumee. Thousands of people waited in a line that stretched a quarter mile or more to attend the job fair held Friday in Maumee.
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Donald Martinez applied at TARTA. Having recently recovered from a disability, the 46-year-old Toledoan has found himself in the midst of the worst job market in decades. "I'm just trying to find work," he said. "The situation's getting pretty dire."

"We're seeing a huge interest in people that want to start yesterday," said LaMont Stewart, who works for the Maumee office of Edward Jones and is looking for possible financial advisers.

His firm is actively recruiting people to become financial advisers, but the job has training and licensing requirements that can take months to complete, and many job seekers don't seem to have the luxury of waiting for an income, Mr. Stewart said.

"You can tell the severity of the situation people are facing," Mr. Stewart said.

Priscilla Zabarski, 30, and her husband, Edward, perused the aisles of the fair hunting for a clerical job, a manufacturing job, a computer job, or whatever anyone might offer.

"I just want them to give me a chance," the Toledo woman said. Her husband, who still has a job in the automotive industry, had his hours cut in January, forcing his wife back into the workplace.

"It's the only choice we have right now," Mr. Zabarski said.

Doug Losey, laid off in September, traveled all the way from Lima.

"I'm looking really for anything within a two-hour drive of Lima, 150 or even 200 miles. That's how far I'll probably have to go," said Mr. Losey, 63, who was dressed in a sport coat and tie.

"I've been between jobs before, but never for more than a month or six weeks at the most," he said. "It's just never been like this."

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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