From last year's job fair 2013

Improved economy could mean bigger Job Fair

Staff Writer
Ken Francis
One way to tell whether the economy is improving is by the number of jobs available.
And a job fair might just be the place to find one.
The 10th Annual Central Minnesota Area Job Fair will be held at Monticello High School March 25 from noon until 5 p.m.
Organizers are hoping this year’s event will be bigger and better than last year.
“At the moment we’re doing more business outreach than we are job seeker outreach,” says Tim Zipoy, business resource representative at Central Minnesota Jobs & Training Services. “I’m using social media, email distribution lists, trolling newspapers and job banks, anywhere I can in an effort to build business participation.”
Zipoy says the economy is definitely getting better, which means more jobs for more people.
“We can look at hard data. One good weather gauge is the Minnesota Works website. At the moment there are 440 jobs posted in Wright and Sherburne counties alone,” says Zipoy. “It’s pretty much every sector of business and industry - manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, food service retail, IT. It’s all those things. The economy is improving. Manufacturing is improving. The stats show it.”
Brad Durfee, business service specialist with Minnesota Job Service, says a good indicator that there are jobs available is the willingness of companies to train people.
“That’s a big change. Several years ago if somebody needed an estimator or welder, they could have their pick of whoever they wanted,” he says. “Now we’re starting to hear more flexibility from companies. You have a good work history and a good skill set, we’ll train you. And there’s companies that are willing to take on part-time people now. That’s a change from what we’ve been seeing, especially in manufacturing.”
Zipoy says he’s heard positive feedback from companies who have attended in the past. The big incentive for local companies is being able to hire local people. 
 “Wright and Sherburne counties are labor exporters. Many of them leave to go to the Metro area or St. Cloud,” he says.
“This job fair is a pre-eminent way for businesses to interact with their local labor market. If we can get word to those people, we can help business and industry understand that the talent is here and this is a way to get to them.”
Durfee says everyone benefits when local companies find workers close to home. 
“If you have a 45-minute or hour commute, you’re giving up six to 10 hours a week just driving back and forth,” he says. 
And there is no better way to meet with a number of potential employees than at a job fair.
“Our fee is $175 plus  somebody’s afternoon. But for a company to go on a for-profit website can cost up to $600 to run an ad once,” he says. “From a monetary standpoint, this is a great value. You get to talk to people face-to-face and interact with them immediately. It’s not just something coming in over a website.”
Durfee says this is the time of the year - spring, when many companies in the construction trades are hiring.
“There are a lot of businesses that have seasonal employees. This is the time they’re trying to ramp up and get the hiring done so they can hit the ground running when the weather changes,” he says.
When the job fair started in 2005, over 85 companies attended. When the economy tanked, that number started dropping. Two years ago it hit a low of 24. But the economy picked up a bit a year ago, and 39 companies showed up.
Zipoy and Durfee are determined to get as many businesses they can to attend this year. 
“My charge is to work with those companies that we know are hiring and reach out to those who we anticipate might have seasonal hiring needs right now,” says Zipoy.
Durfee says every year it seems like companies wait until the last minute to register. 
“We tend to hear from businesses the week of the deadline,” he says. “But a lot of our reliable companies that are here every year are already registered. So we’re coming along.”
This year’s event begins at noon instead of 1 p.m. That’s to help more local people attend.
“We were concerned about bringing more people to the event,” says Durfee. “By having it noon to five, we’re hoping that we may open it up to some job seekers who can sneak away on their lunch hour and run over to the job fair.”
And for those job seekers who attend, Zipoy always gives the same advice.
“Have your resume in hand. Dress for success and put your best foot forward.”
Business that would like to register for the job fair can contact Zipoy at 763-271-3722 or Durfee at 320-308-5364. Or register online at


BIG LAKE COBORN’S STAFF have been raising funds for the Big Lake Fire Dept. through brat sales and the sale of buttons. Last week Coborns’s staff posed for a picture by the grill. Front row are Vicki Sabre and Kitty Underwood. Back row is Ashley Pelkey, Amy Fiester, Manager Mitch Utecht, Melissa Schafer, Michelle Galvin, Matt Schacht, Curt Allgood and John Howard. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

MEMBERS OF THE Big Lake American Legion flag corps, at attention during Monday’s Memorial Day services. From left, Dennis Gail, Don McVeigh, Don Deuel and Gary Poslusny. (Photos by Gary W. Meyer)

Larry and Lavina Pattee