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Manufacturing jobs are bright spot at Jefferson-Lewis Job Fair

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A manufacturing boom that has brought more than 400 production jobs to the region this year is expected to continue in 2014, employers predicted at the Jefferson-Lewis Job Fair on Tuesday in Watertown.

More than 600 jobs were up for grabs at the Hilton Garden Inn off Arsenal Street, where 60 employers attended the fair to offer retail, hospitality, health care, manufacturing and construction jobs.Manufacturers at the fair included Jain Irrigation, Current Applications, Timeless Frames and Car Freshner. Big-box retailers taking applications for the holiday season included JC Penney, Sears, Best Buy, Lowes and Home Depot, while Stream Global Services is seeking to fill 150 jobs at its Arsenal Street call center.

Watertown-based Jain Irrigation was collecting resumes to hire 10 to 15 entry-level machine operators, four to five machine mechanics and one mechanical engineer, said Kathy D. DeForge, human resources generalist. The growing company, which makes micro-irrigation systems used on farmland, is adding production lines to manufacture irrigation drip tape at its Water Street plant. One line was installed this year, while two others are under construction.

“We’re hoping to generate enough interest to fill the positions and will be completing interviews over the next two weeks,” Mrs. DeForge said.

The latest hiring streak could be the beginning of a growth period at Jain Irrigation, which is considering the construction of a $10 million warehouse at the City Center Industrial Park to replace its current cramped facility. The Fresno, Calif.-based company is a subsidiary of Jain Irrigation Systems in Jalgain, India, where decision-makers are planning the project.

Other employers, like Current Applications, interviewed and hired workers on the spot at the fair. The Watertown manufacturer at 275 Bellew Ave., which designs and makes prototype motors,already had hired three production workers by 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and was looking to hire two more, said Michelle R. Doney, office administrator.

“We’re growing, and production is up from the previous year,” she said, adding that she has noticed an increased interest in manufacturing jobs among young people.

Mrs. Doney said so-called “manufacturing day” events hosted by the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. have informed area educators about the vast range of manufacturing opportunities. In turn, more students have been inspired to pursue careers in the industry.

“It helps because the manufacturers are leading the effort,” she said.

Expansion projects recently planned by a handful of manufacturers in the region — including New York Air Brake, Jain Irrigation, North American Tapes and Slack Chemical Co. — are expected to greatly strengthen the manufacturing industry, added Cheryl A. Mayforth, executive director of the WorkPlace employment agency on Coffeen Street.

“The industry started growing in 2011 after the recession, and numbers have now climbed back above where they were before the recession hit in 2008,” Mrs. Mayforth said. “The big mantra used to be that manufacturing was a dying occupation, but there’s been a resurgence across the U.S. A lot of companies based in China are coming back because labor isn’t always cheap overseas.”

Stream Global Services informed job hunters that it is seeking to hire 150 employees as soon as possible to work at its call center on Arsenal Street. Jessica M. Tupper, Stream’s North America recruiting manager, said the company is seeking to hire 20 to 40 employees per week until positions are filled.

Entry-level employees are paid an hourly wage of $9 to $11, she said. Job applications may be submitted at the company’s website, http://wdt.me/aXkbkC.

“A lot of people in the community already know about us, so my goal here is to get the word out to some new people,” Mrs. Tupper said.

The fair was sponsored by the Hilton Garden Inn, Samaritan Medical Center and WorkPlace employment agency.

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