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750 people meet with 70-plus employers at job fair at Gainesville Civic Center
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Northeast Georgia Health System health care Recruiter Angela Nicholson meets with Ricky Dukes at her booth Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at the Gainesville Civic Center during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce annual job fair. - photo by Scott Rogers

To supplement income from his tree-cutting business, Ricky Dukes of Oakwood was walking the hardwood floor at the Gainesville Civic Center checking out potential employers.

Besides, “my wife wants me to get out of the house,” he said, smiling. “She said I need to do something that will keep me going.”

Dukes was among 750 job seekers visiting a job fair Wednesday, March 21, that featured 70-plus companies and organizations with tables spread out across the center’s ballroom, as well as side rooms and a main hallway.

“If we had more space (at the civic center), we’d probably have more companies,” Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, has said.

Express Employment Professionals presented the event, along with the chamber, Lanier Technical College, Georgia Department of Labor and the Gainesville Area Employer Committee.

“Seven or eight years ago, the big issue was not enough jobs and today, we have a lot of jobs,” said state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, visiting the fair. “I’ve talked to a half-dozen companies so far, and I’ve counted up 350 job openings. And a lot of (the jobs) pay really well.”

A wide range of companies were represented at the fair, from manufacturers to restaurant chains.

Rita Lynch, who works in human resources for Waffle House, touted her company’s paid vacations, full- and part-time schedules and other benefits.

“We pay (employees) in cash — they don’t have to go somewhere to cash their check,” she said. “That usually attracts people.”

Plus, “with our management team, we are very competitive” in terms of pay, Lynch said.

“That’s what a lot of people don’t realize,” she added.

Ashleigh Kovach, client service supervisor with Spherion, said helping companies find qualified employees is challenging, particularly as the Gainesville metro area — or all of Hall County — has one of the lowest jobless rates in the state.

“We’re trying to find people who have jobs and place them in other, better jobs,” she said.

Spherion is a Gainesville firm that helps people find temporary and permanent jobs.

About 900 people attended last year’s job fair, according to the chamber.

Many employers came ready to hire or interview, with application tables set up throughout the center. Evans had recommended that attendees bring resumes and dress to impress.

Maria Leggett of Gainesville was a job seeker seated at one of the tables.

“I need to find a more steady position than what I have,” she said. “I have a part-time position right now.”

Overall, Hall’s employment picture is one of the brightest in Georgia.

A January Department of Labor report showed that the area closed out 2017 with record highs for jobs, employed residents and workforce size.

“All of the major indicators trended in the right direction. In fact, records were set. I’m expecting the same will continue in 2018,” Butler said at the time.