Job Opportunities

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2009

Job hunter Donald Poindexter finds his way around Mississippi’s Internet-based job bank Wednesday on his first visit to the Batesville WIN Job Center. The Panolian photo by Billy Davis

If you need a J-O-B, it can be F-O-U-N-D

By Billy Davis

Somewhere out there is a job. Really.

Even with a fragile economy, and double-digit unemployment, a job can be found in or near Panola County.

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“We are pretty sparse in our hiring because our workforce is pretty stable. But we do have openings,” said Mike Green, general manager of the Serta Mattress plant in Batesville.

The Serta plant is presently seeking truck drivers and sewing machine operators.    

Green said the plant currently employs approximately 130 people, a number that has remained “pretty steady” through 2009, he said.

 “Everybody was nervous about Labor Day because last year, after Labor Day, everything shut down,” he said.

“But this year was better. November was better than last year – and December, too,” Green added, referring to production orders for the plant.

The steady job growth at GE Aviation in Batesville has made news throughout the year. The still-small workforce at GE, which topped 70 employees this fall, will top 100 workers beginning Monday, said human resources leader Justin Whitman.

“Thirty-three new folks, who are starting a new job or don’t have a job, will start with us Monday,” Whitman reported.

The positive news of job growth comes at the same time unemployment in Panola County hovered in double digits through 2009, the first time it’s done so since 2003.

Panola County posted 12.5 percent unemployment in October according to the latest monthly figures from the Miss. Department of Employment Security (MDES).

A further look at Panola’s jobless numbers showed 1,870 people were unemployed, which is 560 more jobless people than a year earlier.

Amid those gloomy numbers, approximately 13,060 people were employed in Panola County in October – a far greater number, with the exception of fast-growing Lafayette County, than any county that touches Panola.

“We haven’t stopped hiring. We’re hiring every day,” said Carmen Hadorn, general manager of Cracker Barrel.

Hardorn said the Batesville restaurant is presently seeking a full-time cook and 15 part-time servers

At the WIN Job Center in Batesville, 7,912 people have used the job center in 2009. Many of them use the Job Center’s computers to search for jobs on-line according to office manager Ashanti Hoskins.

Anyone who has searched for a job lately knows how times have changed: any search for employment can be done on-line where most businesses, including Serta and Cracker Barrel, solicit job applications.

Many businesses also post their job openings at Job Central, a statewide job bank operated by the Miss. Department of Employment Security. MDES oversees the WIN Job Centers around the state.

A search of Job Central found 41 job openings within 25 miles of Batesville. One hundred sixty-four jobs were posted on Job Central within 50 miles of Batesville.

When a reporter visited the WIN Job Center this week, clients sounded upbeat when asked about their job-hunting stories.  

Tymingie Flowers, 22, said she is holding down part-time jobs in Batesville, at Cracker Barrel and at the L’eggs retail store. She was using the WIN Job Center to search for human resources jobs, since she holds a bachelor’s degree in human resources from Ole Miss.

“I’ve got a job but I’m looking for a career,” she said. “Or I would like to move up where I’m at.”

Nafreda Bobo, 28, said she is currently working part-time at Kroger. She is entering her second week of job searches at the Job Center, where she looking for “something better that’s close to home.”

Donald Poindexter, 53, was searching for a plant maintenance job after moving to Coldwater from Florida to be near family. In Florida, he performed plant maintenance for the International Bread Company.

“Just looking through the newspaper you can find jobs,” he said. “There are more jobs here than in Jacksonville – and you’ve got more industries.”

Poindexter is also observant.

Also hidden behind gloomy jobless numbers is reason to boast: in Panola County, hirings at local manufacturers are beefing up an already-strong industrial base.

Manufacturing jobs accounted for 18.8 percent of jobs in Panola County in 2009, the highest percentage of any county in Northwest Mississippi. Only Marshall County, at 13 percent, boasted a comparable amount of industrial jobs.

Panola’s percentage of manufacturing jobs equates to 1,991 employed workers, according to MDES figures.

“Depending on skill level, the pay for an industrial job ranges from $13 to $22 an hour,” said Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons.

“Based on that alone, that’s a pretty good impact on the economy,” he said. “That’s a nice circulation of money.”