You’re hired: Job fairs thrive with personal touch

By Mike Bennett

A series of Wayne County Job Fairs have played a critical role in helping hundreds find good jobs — and dozens of employers to find good fits.

The job fairs certainly have worked out well for Primex Plastics. “We’ve hired several from these,” said Lisa Pierson of human resources at the manufacturer. “Without these events, we wouldn’t have met them.”


Job seekers fill out applications in the foreground as others talk with employers in the background at the job fair at Golay Center. (photo by Danny Shaver)

The seven county job fairs have provided personal connections in an increasingly impersonal world where most applications are made while sitting in front of a computer. “It’s good to be able to get face-to-face with someone,” said job seeker Jeff Hairfield, who visited dozens of potential employers at the latest job fair, held on Aug. 21 at Golay Center in Cambridge City.

The personal touch is something that founder Mary Anne Butters knew was essential in her mission as a Wayne County Commissioner to reduce unemployment in the county. The events certainly have succeeded in matching employers with employees: “We know 300 have gotten jobs,” Butters said.

She shepherds the job fairs ( that cost the county only about the price of stamps to put on.


Jeff Hairfield (right) wants to leave a strong first impression in his job search. (photo by Danny Shaver)

There are employers to invite — about 100 have participated so far – and flyers to produce. There are volunteers and donors to solicit and event locations to set up. Her roles even included placing handouts on tables as job-seekers started lining up at the gymnasium door at Golay Center, then personally greeting many as they came in.

The energy, and job-matching possibilities, appeared contagious among the employers that ranged from state police to staffing and social-service agencies, from manufacturing and motels to the medical industry, from logistics and Lowe’s to life insurance, and from banks and bakers to school-bus drivers.

“What kind of position are you looking for today?” Kris Bergan said in a friendly way to job-seekers as they approached the DOT Foods booth.


Kris Bergan talks with a job-seeker about what DOT Foods is looking for in employees. (photo by Danny Shaver)

He answered questions, handed out free goodies and periodically entered notes into his laptop.

Bergan pointed out that DOT, like many other companies today, only accepts applications through the Internet. But, he takes names of those who impress him so he can inform human resources employees “to look for them when they apply.”

What impresses him? “I’m looking for someone who is energetic and asks a lot of questions,” said the assistant warehouse manager at DOT (

The event handout indicated that DOT seeks to hire full-time and part-time transfer drivers and specialists in custom delivery and warehouse orders. “Hopefully, we can find good qualified candidates. It’s kind of hit and miss,” Bergan admits.

Other employers were looking for some special fits, too.


Dean Combs (right) said Mosey Manufacturing has found success in finding employees through job fairs.(photo by Danny Shaver)

Dean Combs was on the lookout for Mosey Manufacturing ( to fill openings that include machine operators and computer techs.

“It’s valuable to do this,” he said, noting that Mosey has hired people after first meeting them at previous county job fairs.

Combs is director of safety and human resources for Mosey.

He looks for job seekers who “present themselves well and are outgoing — they speak up and ask a lot of questions.”

He said it’s an advantage for them to come prepared by having done research about the company, its products and the kinds of jobs done there.


Lisa Pierson (back right) of Primex likes job seekers who ask questions and have strong work histories. (photo by Danny Shaver)

Pierson of Primex Plastics ( watches for a certain presence in job seekers: “Do they come prepared and ask good questions?” she said. “We look for people who have a good job history, who are stable and could grow in existing roles.”

The job fairs are enticing to employers because they are low-cost to them, too. “It’s affordable to find valuable candidates,” Pierson said.

The events generate hundreds of personal connections, giving employers a variety of talents to pick from. Sandi Mathews, manager of the Meijer store in Richmond (, chatted with dozens of job seekers near a large sign that listed more than a dozen openings at Meijer — full-time, part-time and seasonal.  “We want a pool (of applicants). This has done well for us,” Mathews said.


Wayne County Commissioner Mary Anne Butters greets an attendee at the door to the Golay Center gym. (photo by Danny Shaver)

Hairfield, who was dressed in a professional suit, was committed to visiting every table. “First impressions are huge,” said Hairfield, who moved to Richmond recently after losing his management job at a college bookstore as the “victim of a reorganization.”

He isn’t picky about opportunities. He just wants a job: “I am not opposed to starting at the bottom.”

The job seekers ranged in ages from about 18 to 70-plus. They included individuals, couples and parents who brought along children. They all received personal time with representatives of businesses that hire in Wayne County.

The connection may not pay off immediately. Some employers are looking toward the future.

A Sugar Creek Packing Co. representative attended the event to remind people that the new plant is getting closer to opening in the Gateway Industrial Park at State Highway 1 and Interstate 70. “Really for us it’s informational,” said Howard Mintz, corporate director of human resources. “It gives the community an update on our progress.”


Howard Mintz speaks with an attendee about the Sugar Creek plant that is expected to open next year in the Gateway Industrial Park. (photo by Danny Shaver)

The Sugar Creek plant is progressing — and is expected to open in 2015.

Mintz chatted with dozens of job seekers in front of a company sign. He talked about how Sugar Creek can’t wait to get up and running and encouraged them to send in applications when the company announces that it’s ready to hire.

Even though he wasn’t looking to hire now, he did keep his eye on people who display traits that he considers vital to the Sugar Creek way. “We want folks who are passionate about what they do and are dependable,” Mintz said.