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750 Go Home With Jobs at Suncoast Career Expo


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 work.
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 affair.
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 Workforce Board.
"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 Tumbler, a native Sarasota County business that manufactures super-insulating soft-drink and coffee cups in nearby N. Venice; LexJet, 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 says.
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 9.7%.


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