| By John Howell Sr.
Joe Buckner’s enthusiasm is contagious.
Buckner is director of the Governor’s Job Fair Network and is busily helping to coordinate the June 15 Northwest Mississippi Area Job Fair along with local government, employment and economic development officials.
Or maybe the enthusiasm in the room was spontaneous as about 20 people gathered at Western Sizzlin’ restaurant for the next-to-last planning session for this year’s job fair.
Last year’s NMA Job Fair was the first and planning for the event started late. Yet, 50 employers signed up and over 2,000 people looking for jobs descended on the then-recently completed Batesville Civic Center.
The 2005 event attracted 2,718 resumes, 525 on-site interviews were conducted; 804 job offers were made on the day of the job fair and over 1,100 people were projected to have been hired during the last year as a result of their visit to the fair.
"There was just electricity in the air there was so much excitement," said Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey, who attended the 2005 job fair as as mayor-elect.
Autrey and his elected colleagues, Sardis Mayor Rusty Dye and Panola Board of Supervisors President Robert Avant, joined the session where Buckner reminded the group: "The reason we do this is to help the unemployed to get a job."
Thirty-four employers have already signed up for Job Fair booths in the Batesville Civic Center. They pay $150 for a booth where they can showcase their industry, place of business and employment opportunity. The registration fees cover the cost of the Job Fair.
"We really don’t use tax dollars to do this," Buckner said.
"We insist on everything for those applicants to be free," Buckner continued. There is no admission charge at the center, no charge for parking, no charge for photocopies.
"Anything we can do to further the hiring process for an employer, we’ll do it," Buckner continued. At one job fair in another area of the state, an employer requested facilities to allow pre-employment drug screening. It was provided.
"The event is really so much bigger; … it’s an excellent showcase for our community," said Cindy Martin, office manager for Batesville’s WIN Job Center.
"We do have a lot of employers from outside the area and they were really impressed with the treatment they got last year."
That treatment will include greetings and assistance from the Ambassadors of the Panola Partnership, a hospitality room, lunches.
"We want to feed those employers the best meal we can," Buckner said.
The appeal of bringing employees and job seekers together at a specified time and place eases the process for everyone, the Job Fair Network director continued.
"It cuts through all the red tape that a person would have to go through to apply for a job," he said.
"If you know anybody looking for a job, the place to be on June 15 is the Batesville Civic Center," Buckner said.
Employers who have reserved space at the Job Fair so far include Ablest Staffing Services, ACI Building Systems, Advanced Distributor Products, AFLAC, Avon Industries representatives, Avon Independent Sales, Batesville Casket Company, Batesville Tooling and Design, BellSouth, Beverly Healthcare of Batesville, Carlisle Corporation, Cracker Barrel, Gardner Institute, High Tech Institute, Holland Employment, Manpower, Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., Minact, Inc. – Batesville Job Corps Center, MS Army National Guard, MS Highway Safety Patrol, MS Dept. of Employment Security, MS Department of Health, North Miss. State Hospital, Northwest MS Community College, Primamerica, RFT Management Inc. – Taco Bell, Schwans Home Service, Inc., SEACOR Marine, Steelmatic Wire USA, Inc., The University of Mississippi, Tower Loan, Tri-Lakes Medical Center, Union National Life Insurance Co. and Woodmen of the World.