184 jobs paid with federal stimulus money

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Marshall County Job Creation Recovery Program is now paying wages and benefits to 184 employees hired since the first job fair on April 20 with dozens of positions filled Wednesday because of a second job fair.

That's the word from Paige Liggett, spokeswoman for the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance office. Its second job fair was at the Career Center in the Columbia State Community College building on South Ellington Parkway.

"The numbers will probably be up even more by Friday," Liggett said.

Originally, the goal was to fill 175 jobs, but if wages are lower, then the program can fund more jobs.

Job Creation Recovery Programs have been established in several Tennessee counties where unemployment has been high. Gov. Phil Bredesen allocated $3 million for the program here. The money is from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. ARRA funds are probably better known as economic stimulus money.

The money is paid to workers who get jobs from employers who are participating, and that includes one of Marshall County's newest employers, the Will & Baumer candle factory next to the Autom Christian Products distribution center in Lewisburg's Business Park.

"I was about to give up on finding a job," Eliceo Alcala said after he was hired Wednesday. "This could not have come at a better time"

Alcala, 42, moved here from California and lives on Franklin Road with his wife and two children, age six and 16.

"I'm so excited that I have a job," Alcala said. "It's a lot of - a lot of, help for us."

Adam Hayes, 36, of Lewisburg, is the production supervisor at Will & Baumer and Tuesday he interviewed applicants and hired two through the program. A third was passing a drug test, so by Thursday, he had filled at least three of four job openings.

Initially, the work is in maintenance and cleaning, but cross training is part of the job at the two businesses jointly owned by a parent company, Hayes said. Warehouse work might be assigned; production, too.

"We all pitch in," Hayes continued. "You may have been hired in for maintenance, but end up on the phone another day."

Working in the call center is something Alcala would like to do. He speaks Spanish and English and the company has acknowledged that many of its customers speak Spanish.

Stimulus funds for this program run out on Sept. 30.

"Then, it's one of our busiest seasons... Advent," Hayes said. "We've got lots of good applicants from the job fair."

Also at the job fair was Deborah McKee, director of Noah's Ark Child Care on Nashville Highway.

"I can't hire anybody on the spot because the job requires a background check and fingerprints, but I have about 15 applicants," McKee said. "I'm looking for six."

Among the 122 jobseekers at the job fair Wednesday were Burma Eadie, 38, of Bark Street and her sister, Angela Wiley, 40, of Fayetteville.

Because Wiley lives in Lincoln County, she does not qualify for employment through the Marshall County Job Creation Recovery Program. The program is here because of the high unemployment here. Lincoln County's unemployment rate has been the lowest in the state.

But Wiley wants a job, so job fair officials referred her to the Career Center in the community college building.

Eadie applied for work at the Lewisburg Water Department, Pliant/Berry Plastics, Marshall County Schools and the Marshall County Courthouse.

She has an associate's degree for work as a medical assistant, but she's been out of that line of work for seven months since she's had a baby. She and her husband "started over" with their 20-month old child. She's already a grandmother since some of her other children, age 19, 21 and 24, have had babies.

The 20-month-old baby was part of what qualified Eadie for help. To be eligible for a job paid with stimulus money, an applicant must have a child living at home who is age 17 or younger.

Meanwhile, Amanda Davis, 27, of 7th Avenue, applied for work at the job fair.

"I like working in restaurants or grocery stores," Davis said.

She left her job at Sav-A-Lot because she had a baby.

The job fair was "pretty cool," she said. "It's a good opportunity ... if you don't have a job."

Her husband was also looking to find a better job.

At least two dozen people landed jobs Wednesday at the job fair. Since the job fair at Lewisburg's Recreation Center there have been 134 people hired by business and local government and 50 people hired by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

"Fourteen people were hired on the spot," Liggett said. "Two dozen employers participated."

Calculations are to be made to see how much money is left so that the Workforce Alliance knows how many other jobs might be funded.

"There, more than likely, will be another job fair in a couple of weeks if all of the slots are not filled," Liggett said.