The North Georgia Career Expo was held last week with employers and job seekers hoping to make successful connections to benefit the workforce of Dawson County.
The Sept. 22 expo at 6140 Events on Ga. 400, saw more than 40 employers visited with more than 100 job seekers dressed for success in business attire.
The expo was sponsored by the Georgia Department of Labor, Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, the Development Authority of Dawson County and Lanier Technical College.
Christie Haynes of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce said the Chamber's main purpose is to support their businesses.
"We do everything within our power to ensure that Dawson County maintains an excellent environment for conducting business," Haynes said. "Our Workforce Development Committee determined that a top need of the business community is finding the correct talent that allows them to thrive. To address this need, we hosted the North Georgia Career Expo."
A recent decrease in the unemployment rate may have been a factor in the small number of expo attendees.
According to numbers released by the Georgia Department of Labor, the Georgia Mountains unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percent in August.
The unemployment rate for the Georgia Mountains region dropped from 4.8 percent in July to 4.6 percent in August, the DOL reported. The current unemployment rate for the state of Georgia is 5.2 percent.
According to DOL estimates, the unemployment rate for Dawson County in August 2016 was 4.5 percent, down from 4.7 percent in July.
Those without a job who are not actively seeking employment do not count when calculating the unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate is calculated based on those who are unemployed and actively seeking employment. In other words, people who are on the hunt for a job, like those that attended the career expo.
"We were thrilled that a diverse mix of businesses participated in the expo," Haynes said. "Although we hoped for more attendees, we received positive feedback from the participating businesses that the expo greatly helped them to identify new talent and meet their immediate needs."
Indeed, the sponsors of the event pulled out all the stops to make the career expo a success.
Keith Krauth of the Georgia Mountain Regional Commission parked one of the organization's two mobile training units in the parking lot, ready to assist job hunters with resumes and other job-related documents. The mobile unit, Krauth said, is basically a computer lab on wheels.
"We help people with job applications, resumes, cover letters, career assessments, typing, and sometimes basic computer training," Krauth said about the bus. "The commission also gives tuition assistance, up to $10,000 a person over two years."
Inside the event center, businesses in attendance included State Farm, SleeveCo, KIK Custom Products, Gracemont Assisted Living, Servepro, Events by Dezine, Goodwill Career Center, Kroger, Racetrac, Cracker Barrel, Sonic, Culver's, Panera Bread, Brooklyn Joe's, and many North Georgia Premium Outlet stores, including Fossil, Banana Republic, True Religion, LOFT and Nike.
One of the employers, State Farm Insurance Agent Carla Boutin, said that the career expo is great exposure for businesses and the perfect way for people who are looking for jobs to get their names out there.
"It's a great way for people to find a job," she said. "You can post jobs on the internet but so much of connecting with employers happens in person."
Many owners of the new businesses coming to Ga. 400 were also present at the fair, including those from the new Kroger Marketplace and the Panera Bread Bakery & Cafe, which will be located next to LongHorn Steakhouse.
A representative and manager of the new Kroger Marketplace said that the store will open on November 16, and as the biggest Kroger store in the state it will have many new features, including a brick pizza oven, a sushi bar and a four-aisle toy section.
Shannon Taylor, who handles public relations with Panera Bread, said that the cafe is set to open October 24, and that they are actively hiring team members.
"We're very excited to be bringing our business to Dawsonville," Taylor said. "We're hiring and training our new employees at our Cumming location, until we get the keys to the Dawson building."
There were also several manufacturing employers at the expo, including Dawsonville's SleeveCo and Gainesville's KIK Custom Products.
Libby Smith, human resources manager at SleeveCo, said that the manufacturing company is in transition after just being acquired, and that they are looking for great engineering talent.
Melissa Wiley, staffing specialist with KIK Custom Products, said that their company is looking for maintenance mechanics, electricians and technicians, and have 13 job openings in total.
"When I started work here in December I had no idea of all the cool things that are being manufactured here in Gainesville, right in our backyard," Wiley said.
KIK Custom Products manufacture many big name brands, including Big Sexy Hair products and Elizabeth Arden perfume.
"We're looking for people with maintenance backgrounds and technician backgrounds," Wiley said. "So far I've found that job fairs like this help people find jobs just through word of mouth, which I think is the best way to find a job."
Those who were unable to attend may create an account online at www.employgeorgia.com to upload a resume and connect with employers who are still looking for applicants.