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Business leaders hope to draw big crowd for job fair at West End Plaza

SALISBURY — With local employers struggling to fill vacant positions, the Rowan Economic Development Commission hopes to draw a record number of job seekers to a job fair at West End Plaza on Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“Our hope is to make this the largest attended job fair that Rowan County has seen yet,” said Rod Crider, president of the Rowan EDC.

There are currently about 40 employers signed up for the job fair, ranging from warehouse distribution companies such as Chewy to local home builders like Clayton Rockwell. Innospec, Gildan, Snow Joe, Team Auto Group, Daimler, Johnson Concrete, Eastern Wholesale Fence and Hexagon Agility will all be represented at the fair.

With so many companies currently hiring, Crider said job seekers are faced with more options than usual when looking for employment.

“With this job fair, it’s a one-stop shop,” Crider said. “You can go and talk to many employers and find an employer that has a job that fits your interests, your qualifications, maybe a culture you’re looking for and certainly compensation. I don’t think that people have been given this kind of forum where they can seek and compare different job opportunities all in the span of four hours.”

Kendall Henderson, director of business services for the Rowan EDC, said about half of the companies slated to attend the fair are prepared to offer jobs on-site. Employers at the fair will also offer incentives such as tuition and child care assistance, as well as signing bonuses. In addition to sweeteners offered by companies, the Tourism Development Authority will raffle off four $250 Amazon gift cards to event attendees who complete an on-site scavenger hunt.

“We’re definitely pulling out all of the stops and giving it a lot of effort,” Crider said.

Salisbury Transit will offer free transportation to West End Plaza.

“We really just want to remove all barriers or any kind of challenges hindering someone from attending,” Henderson said. “I think free transit will be a great incentive to get people to come out.”

While the Rowan EDC has hosted hiring events periodically in the past, this particular job fair is a concerted effort to fill a pressing need shared by some of the county’s biggest companies.

“The need for workers has become great,” Crider said. “It’s at a critical point for many of our employers, so we want to do everything we can do to assist them in connecting job seekers with employees in our community.”

Even though numerous local employers are currently hiring, Rowan County’s unemployment rate ranks among the highest in the state. From March to April, the county’s unemployment rate rose from 4.7% to 5.7%, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Only 19 other counties had a higher rate in April. The state’s numbers are not seasonally adjusted, meaning seasonal hiring patterns were not taken into account.

One reason why local employers are struggling to fill positions, Crider said, is because of extra unemployment benefits offered by the federal government.

“We’re hearing anecdotally from employers saying that the additional benefits provided by the federal government, on top of the state’s unemployment benefits, has been a deterrent to getting candidates to take positions,” Crider said.

A bill is currently being considered by state lawmakers that would eliminate the $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits provided by the federal government. Starting on June 6, Gov. Roy Cooper reinstated the job search requirements for people receiving the benefits.

Crider said the job search requirement could be an impetus for more unemployed Rowan Countians to get back on the hunt.

The Rowan EDC is hosting the job fair in conjunction with the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Development Authority and Miller Davis Agency. The event’s organizers are also planning a virtual component for those who cannot attend the job fair in person. More information about the job fair can be found online at rowanedc.com/job-fair/.

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