The past four months have been frustrating for Katie Waldhour.
She was blindsided around the holidays, when the company she worked for in Savannah laid her off. Waldhour lives in Springfield and hopes to stay in Effingham, but said she has “not really had any luck” in her job search.
Waldhour was one of more than 200 job-seekers who turned out for Tuesday’s job fair hosted by the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce at the Effingham College and Career Academy.
“Having one of these in Effingham is really beneficial,” Waldhour said, “because usually they’re in Savannah and they’re just Savannah jobs and there are a million people. So this is kind of small and specialized to Effingham County.”
The job fair was the first of its kind in Effingham County. It emerged from discussions by the Chamber’s new workforce development committee about ways to help local employers.
Fourteen Effingham County industries and companies participated in the three-hour job fair. The 200-plus attendees ranged in age, and included soon-to-be graduates as well as people who are unemployed, looking to change jobs or return to the workforce after some time away.
“We’ve seen the whole gamut,” said Rick Lott, executive director of the Effingham Chamber.
“It was very popular and very well-attended,” said Effingham Industrial Development Authority CEO John Henry. “Everything went great.”
Helping someone like Waldhour find a job was precisely the goal, Lott said. He pointed out that approximately 75 percent of Effingham’s workforce leaves the county to work each day.
On the plus side, Lott said, Effingham’s job market is on the uptick. He cited Edwards Interiors and Lineage Logistics as two examples of local businesses that are hiring.
“I think this was good timing (for the job fair) not only for the employers, but for the citizens here,” Lott said. “I’ve heard story after story today of people who live here but are working in Chatham, and they said to me, ‘It sure would be nice to work closer to home.’”
Having job opportunities for Effingham County residents will be even more important in coming years, Lott said. Projections from the state are for Effingham’s population to nearly double in the next 10-15 years.
The Port of Savannah expansion, Gulfstream Aerospace and Effingham’s own industry will all be drivers of that growth, according to Lott. He added that local realtors are seeing the housing market start to improve, with home sales and construction starting up again.
“It’s just incredible,” Lott said of the growth projection. “I think you are definitely starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think we’re at the edge now of that next growth boom.”
That is welcome news as Waldhour deals with unemployment for the second time since graduating from the University of Georgia in 2009. She looked for seven months after graduation before finding a job, and she was in her most-recent position for about two-and-a-half years before the company cut back its staff four months ago.
“I’m kind of looking for anything that can get my foot in the door,” said Waldhour, whose experience is in customer service and administrative work.
The Effingham Chamber already is looking ahead to its next job fair. Lott said the possibilities include having a job fair in the evening rather than daytime, or one just for students.
“We’re definitely looking at doing more than just this one,” Lott said.