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Prospects for employment looking up in two counties
SoVaNow.com / April 03, 2013Despite Mecklenburg County’s 10.7 percent and Brunswick County’s 11.5 percent unemployment rate, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for job seekers on both counties, thanks to companies like Fluor and Home Care Delivered. Together, the two companies plan to bring over 650 jobs to Mecklenburg and Brunswick.
At the same time, the town of South Hill is exploring ways to lure new companies to the area.
On Wednesday, Southside Virginia Community College held a community outreach and information expo at its Christiana Campus, with the hope of uniting job seekers with prospective employers, and in particular Fluor, the construction company hired to build Dominion Power’s $1.1 billion natural gas-fired power station in Brunswick County.
David Clarke, who heads the engineering staff for the project, said Fluor expects to hire around 600 workers for the project beginning in August. They include construction and maintenance craft professionals such as equipment operators, pipe fitters, ironworkers, welders, and electricians. While Fluor will transfer some of its current employees to the Brunswick project, Clarke said the company plans to hire “all the construction workers we can from here [Brunswick, Mecklenburg and nearby counties].
Fluor bills itself as one of the world’s largest publicly owned engineering, procurement, construction, and maintenance service companies. They have over 41,000 employees spread across 25 countries and 6 continents. They recently completed work on Dominion’s 590-megawatt Bear Garden Power Station, located in Buckingham County, 60 miles west of Richmond.
When asked, why work for Fluor, Jimmy Law, the site manager for the Brunswick project said it is because of the opportunities we offer our work force, as well as the benefits. He encouraged anyone interested to go online and learn a little more about Fluor. Their website is http://www.FluorCraft.com. That site also lists current job openings.
Dominion Virginia Power had representatives at the expo, but they were not talking jobs. Dan Genest, spokesperson for the company, said Dominion would only need 30 or so employees to run the plant, once it goes online. Many of those employees would transfer from existing Dominion owned facilities.
Still new residents to the area would bring opportunities for local realtors and homebuilders looking to sell or construct new houses.
Joan Moore, who heads Brunswick County’s IDA called the prospect of bringing “600 or more jobs to the distressed region” exciting.
The expo drew a mixed audience. Some, like Lewis and Elaine Harrup of Emporia were there because they had houses to sell. Paul Farmer was hoping to market his newly launched environmentally friendly mobile power-washing company. “After all,” Farmer said, “they might want their cars or equipment cleaned.” Shirley Morgan of Alberta was there with her son, who recently purchased a “food wagon.”
Most were looking for jobs. Melvin Smith used to do construction, but lately has only found part-time work with a mulch company. Leroy Hurt, Sr. worked for Mecklenburg Correctional Center in Boydton until a year ago. He and members of his SVCC HVAC class were there with their instructor Larry Wallace to see what opportunities might “present themselves on down the road,” whether their newly acquired HVAC skills could translate into the types of jobs being offered by Fluor.
Glen Allen based Home Care Delivered (HCD) is seeking operators for its call center in Clarksville. The company, founded in 1996 offers home delivery of medical supplies, and serve as an educational resource, helping patients learn how to properly use the products they deliver.
Darcy Furr, the Chief Administrative Officer for said the company was one of 15 companies recently awarded a Medicare grant to expand its customer base. “Therefore we are in the market for at least 20 new employees in Clarksville, hopefully up to 50. These are our new patient services coordinators who will be work with first time customers,” Furr said.
Mecklenburg County’s Economic Development Director, Angie Kellett, called HCD a “great company that is doing its best to stay in the area and hire locally.” She added that they also pay well when compared to jobs in the area. “It’s the type of company we like to attract, and hope to bring more to the County. There is a 5,000 square foot building sitting empty next to them [HCD]. We think it would be perfect for another call center.”
Furr said the jobs HCD has available are more than just answering phones. “We are an outbound call center, so our customer service reps must work with our patients to learn their conditions and insure that those patients receive the best possible products to meet their needs. Prior medical experience is not necessary. We will train our workers at our in-house HCD University.”
HCD was one of the first companies to reach out to Peebles/Stage Store employees after that company announced it would close the South Hill corporate offices. “We’ve extended employment officers to 12 former employees and are seriously considering three other,” said Furr.
Furr encouraged those who are quick learners and a warm friendly personality to contact Heather Robinson with HCD’s human resources office. Robinson’s number is (804) 200-7361, or apply online at http://www.hcd.com.
Kim Callis, South Hill Town Manager, and Mayor Earle Horne are also looking at ways to entice new companies to the area. “Even before we learned of all the closings, the Mayor and I were exploring avenues to increase South Hill’s and the regions visibility with potential employers,” Callis said.
One of their first steps was to update the town’s website, making it more attractive and user friendly. On Monday, Callis asked the Board of Supervisors economic development committee for $5,000. The money will be used for a video produced by football hall of famer Terry Bradshaw, and run in conjunction with his nationally syndicated show, “Today in America.”
The nationally syndicated program features an economic development series highlighting specific communities in the hopes of luring new business to that area. Callis said prior shows focused on communities as small as 1,000 people up to cities such as Columbus, Ohio.
“We are still working out the details of the script,” Callis explained. “We want to convey a message that are flexible, yet want companies that complement the town and our workforce.” He assured the Supervisors that South Hill’s four industrial parks, Hillcrest, South Hill, Interstate, and North Side would be prominently featured along with the amenities of the area, such as the lakes.
Filming will be done over the spring and summer, according to Callis, and the program will air nationally on 35 stations on ABC and Fox affiliates. Callis said they selected television stations in those states that are least business friendly.
Debra Smiley, who serves as workforce Development Director for SVCC, called the efforts by those hoping to bring jobs to the struggling area a positive. She welcomes the opportunity to work with groups like the Brunswick County IDA as SVCC does its part to ready Southside’s workforce for jobs.
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