Traffic backed up on Interstate 26 at the exit closest to Biltmore Square Mall. The parking lot was crowded. The lines were long: More than 2,000 seekers flooded employers at Biltmore Square Mall for the annual Homecoming Job Fair on Dec. 29. They came in all shapes and sizes. From all of the ‘villes:’ Ashe-, Weaver-, Henderson-, Waynes-, even Mooresville. Sunday best was the fashion sense du jour. There were those just out of school, and many, many more out of school since Ford was President.
Canadian manufacturer Linamar, gearing up in the old Volvo plant in south Asheville, had the largest booth, the most people in orange shirts to help applicants, and by far the longest lines. The company’s workers distributed applications all the way down. Job hopefuls filled them out on each other’s backs, the floor or wall as they waited. At the end of the line, several tables in a shallow curve under a Linamar banner (near where Santa was last week) were in front of seven boxes for holding the applications and resumes. And the boxes filled up fast.
Of the more than 80 employers who had booths at the fair, many were companies with a lower profile than Linamar. The city of Asheville is always looking for firefighters. Car wash companies look for operators. Banks and grocery stores have positions available, Channel 13 needs video journalists, Goodwill needs cashiers … well, you get the idea.
Of those looking for work at the fair, Debbie WongChong of Hendersonville was filling out applications for “just about anything — sales, office work. I have been a personal trainer,” she explained while sitting on a bench. “It is hard to make ends meet, I am more hopeful now,” she said.
Mark Hossley, still in the National Guard and a volunteer firefighter, was talking to Kelley Webb from the Asheville Fire Department about his options. “I am already a firefighter, I like it, would be nice to get paid to do it,” said Hossley.
Considering moving to the area, Virengia Houston of Clemson, S.C., asked staffers the A-B Tech booth about positions as an adjunct professor in Business Administration. “I am keeping my job for now,” she said, “I just want to see what’s around.”
Rod Green and Michael Long were filling out applications for manufacturing jobs at the table for The Holiday Express kid’s train. Both out of work, they were hopeful for some kind of job from today. Another man at the table, who did not want to identify himself, was more glum. “Ain’t none of them gonna hire us, we are too old.”
Another man, Kenneth Chritcher, said he has been out of work since being laid off last summer from a small machine shop. He has worked in all kinds of machine shops, and, as he said, “I just need a job. Something to make ends meet now.”
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