NETWORKS - Sullivan Partnership - You can get there from here.

Greater Bristol Job Fair A Huge Success

BY ROGER BROWN | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER |

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Just weeks after being let go from his job as a machinist by an area manufacturer, Jonathan Light attended Wednesday’s Greater Bristol Job Fair not only to find new employment but to keep alive a special day in his life.

“I’m supposed to be getting married next July, and I’m hoping to be able to keep things rolling on that with her,” said a smiling Light, referring to his fiancée, Danielle Estep. “But for that to happen, I really need to find work — and that’s why I’m here. You have to stay positive, keep your head up and work hard to find something. And that’s what I’m doing.”

Light was among the hundreds — some seeking new jobs, others seeking better ones — who flocked to the five-hour fair at the Foundation Event Facility on State Street downtown.

By 9 a.m., an hour before it opened, a long line of attendees had curled around the room’s entrance, waiting to hold interview and information sessions with scores of major area employers, including Bristol Tennessee Essential Services, Sprint, Eastman Chemical Co., Bell Helicopter, U.S. Solutions, Dr. Reddy’s, the Robinette Co., Bristol Herald Courier and the Bristol Tennessee Police Department. Several schools, including King College, also were represented.

“It’s been successful well above our expectations,” Allen Hurley, Vision LLC president and owner of the facility, said of the turnout. “It’s done exactly what we envisioned. It’s about bringing people who want jobs together with employers who have them available.”

Noting that the event drew some 250 people in the first hour, Hurley said he and other organizers, which included the city of Bristol, Tenn., and the economic development group NETWORKS Sullivan County, may hold the event semi-annually.

“When you have 100 people waiting in line before the job fair even begins, it’s clear that there’s a need and value to holding events like these,” Hurley said.

Like Light, a resident of Kingsport, many of the jobseekers lost jobs within the last several months.

Albert Deems, of Greeneville, Tenn., said that earlier this year he worked for an oil company as its chief electrician on a drilling ship off the Gulf of Mexico, but he was abruptly let go in June because of downsizing.

“Definitely, it was a total surprise,” Deems said of losing his job. “But you have to go on. I’m looking for any work that will allow me to use my skills and experience. And will allow me to keep moving forward.”

Kristy Heath, a mother of two from Bristol, Va., floated from booth to booth, filing applications and exchanging information with company reps. Less than a week ago, Heath lost her job as a waitress with a restaurant that cut its work force, but she said the setback did not dent her confidence or optimism in seeking new work.

“I had a great record of being reliable and dependable, and my former boss has told me he’ll give a glowing recommendation to anyone who asks,” Heath said. “So I feel good that my skills and marketability will really help me find another job. I’m open for just about any job I can get.”

Events like the job fair can be equally valuable to employers, said Al Gourley, an engineering and safety manager for Dr. Reddy’s, a Bristol, Tenn., pharmaceutical company that opened in 2011 after taking over Glaxo Smith Kline’s area operations.

“We’re in a growth mode and we’re definitely looking to add more workers,” Gourley said. His company has nearly tripled its work force, to 125 employees, since last year.

“Taking part in job fairs like this one really allows us to get our name out there,” Gourley said. “And it also gives us a great opportunity to meet some qualified and talented people who might be good fits for our company.”

The event also featured presentations by Scott Tollett, a Texas-based author and career expert who urged jobseekers to pursue new work in a clear, organized and focused manner.

“You have to treat your job search like it’s your day job,” Tollett said. “Look at finding a new job as though it is a job.”

rbrown@bristolnews.com

(276) 645-2512