BRADENTON -- As she emerged from the Bank of
America branch on 14th Street at Bayshore Gardens Dr. just before 4PM
on Friday, April 16, Jacque Stiscak was almost as radiant as the bright red and
white tee shirt she wore. She had good reason to be.
Jacque (pronounced "Jackie"), an account executive with the non-profit, locally-funded Suncoast Workforce Board,
had just left the the Suncoast
Career Expo at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center
on 15th St. E. near the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport. And what happened
there was nothing short of amazing.
More than 3,000 job-seekers showed up for the event, which
featured employers like Verizon, Bright House, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, Home Depot and Manatee County Government.
It wasn't unusual that 3,000 people showed up for a day
of panel discussions on health care and human resources, a keynote
speech by well-known business consultant Barry Banther, whose clients
range from Bank of America to Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, and a chance to connect with some 80 eager regional employers.
What so astounded and pleased Stiscak was the result: a lot of unemployed workers got jobs.
In some parts of the country, three or four times that number of
people turn out for job fairs, and sometimes fewer than a hundred get
At the Career Expo, though, Stiscak said, digging into her trunk
for pamphlets, brochures, folders and interview tips that together
contained a wealth of information for job-seekers at every level - and
skilled workers, especially - companies snapped up an average of about
nine workers each.
In all, Manatee and Sarasota County's jobless rolls fell by about
750 people, Stiscak said. That's how many were hired at the six-hour
The event was sponsored by the State College of Florida, Economic
Development Corporation of Sarasota County, Greater Sarasota Chamber of
Commerce, Manatee Economic Development Council and the Suncoast
"We had a great event," Stiscak said modestly.
Among other employers snapping up able-and-willing workers at the
expo were the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton, where layoffs were occurring just
a few months ago, the cable giant Comcast and Morgan Stanley, a big but
battered survivor of the Wall Street bust last year.
Also participating was Tervis
, a native Sarasota County business that
manufactures super-insulating soft-drink and coffee cups in nearby N.
, a local marketer of professional-grade printers that allow
small businesses to print wide-format signs and banners; and IntegraClick
, which helps online marketers and expanded in 2008 to a new
location at 301 N. Cattlemen Rd. in Sarasota that accommodates 300
staff and allows "its ultra-growth phase to continue," CEO John Lemp
For job-seekers, the Suncoast hiring spree was immensely welcome.
In February, the jobless rate was a dismal 13.2% in Manatee County and
$13.5% in Sarasota County, but the numbers improved in both countioes in
March. Sarasota's rate fell a full percentage point, to 12.5%, and
Manatee's improved less, to 12.9%.
Still, the local jobless rate is above the rest of Florida's,
which rose 0.01% in March to 12.3%, according to the Florida Agency
for Workforce Innovation, and far above the latest national rate of