Quarter of stimulus workers still on job

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nearly a quarter of the people employed in jobs paid with stimulus money in Marshall County are still working, officials say.

The $3 million project started April 21, ended on Sept. 30, and employed 159 people, of which 38 have been retained by some of the 66 employers who were participating.

Marshall County's unemployment rate went from 20.2 percent in January to 16.7 percent in August.

According to Paige Liggett, communications coordinator for the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance, several steps were taken to prepare the people whose jobs ended on Sept. 30. Rapid Response Services Presentation Meetings were held for them. Representatives from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee Department of Human Services, and the SCTWA were present to explain access to and eligibility for all local, state and federal assistance available. They were also educated on the many services available to them through the Tennessee Career Center, for example, assistance in job search, resume writing or investigating possible training options.

Marlena Periera kept her job with Buffalo Valley, and says it's "right in line with what I want to do" because she is going to school for psychology and counseling. Periera has been put in charge of quality assurance, which she describes as a "lot of paperwork," going through the charts to make sure they comply with state standards.

Owen Plastics had to let their two recovery project employees go because the end of the program coincided with the seasonal decline in demand for their product.

Dino Owen, the owner, also had two recovery project employees at one of his other companies, TGL Management, and had to let them go as well, but they left equipped with training in on-line sales. Owen said one of the women is setting up her own business selling on eBay.

James Lynch, one of the workers from Owen, is now studying for certification in network security. He is doing this through Centerstone's Career Resource Institute that was funded by a $5 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Lynch says Tia Anderson at the Career Center helped him find this opportunity. Lynch has done many things in his life, including driving a train, but he had never worked in production until he went to Owen. He explained that Owen Plastics does induction molding and says, "There's a lot to it." However, Owen is a "great teacher" and "very patient."

Anderson says the Career Center is working "one-on-one" with job seekers, including those who were in the recovery project.

Brother's Fine Foods put four recovery project employees, two men and two women, to work in production, and decided to keep all of them when the program ended, because they have gotten busier manufacturing and packaging a variety of fine food products. The four had "limited" production experience, said James Daughrity, director of operations, but were paid the same "position rate" as their more experienced fellow workers.

Brother's now has a total of 23 production employees. Daughrity said he thinks the sluggish economy has contributed to an increase in their business manufacturing private label products. In other words, more shoppers are choosing the less expensive store brand over its national brand equivalent.