St. Marys Journal Argus
That was the word used by Green Arc Tire Manufacturing COO Mike DiCenzo, about one hour into a planned eight-hour Job Fair Wednesday, Dec. 4 at the Pyramid Centre in St. Marys, organized after DiCenzo’s company announced it will begin production in the former Dana truck chassis factory early next year.
When Pyramid Centre staff opened the facility’s doors at 7:30 a.m., people had already begun lining up outside. When the doors swung open into the Community Centre section of the complex at 11 a.m., about 150 resumé-holding job-seekers were ready to enter. And by noon, several hundred people were estimated to have already arrived, filling the parking lot with vehicles and the Pyramid Centre lobby with a line-up that snaked up and down the room three times.
Danna O’Brien, communications representative for Green Arc Tire, offered a final tally in an email to the Journal Argus shortly after the job fair wound down around 7 p.m.: 1,375 resumés handed in for an initial hiring of approximately 340 positions.
“They’re from all over,” O’Brien told the Journal Argus, standing behind the Green Arc booth at about noon, after taking a break to wander along the line-up and hand out some information about the company. “You name the town or city in western Ontario, and they’re from it.”
DiCenzo, who happily held up a Green Arc “remoulded” (re-manufactured tread and sidewall installed around the intact core from a previously-used tire) tire and outlined the rigorous safety testing required in the industry, said he was overwhelmed by the response to the job fair. He described the feeling in the room as optimistic, despite the inescapable fact that the massive turn-out reflects a troubling employment situation across southwestern Ontario.
“It’s almost like a community event. Everybody is on our side. Everybody wants this to be a success,” the Green Arc COO said.
Yvonne Thompson, coordinator at the Education and Employment Resource Centre and adult learning program on Wellington Street in St. Marys, said she wasn’t surprised by the turnout. The job fair was well-promoted by Green Arc and Stratford-based Partners in Employment, which is serving as the receiving agency for resumés for the Green Arc positions.
A handful of other St. Marys and area employers also had booths at the event. And a full compliment of the town’s real estate agencies were in attendance providing information for individuals and families interested in relocating to the town.
Standing at the Education and Employment Resource Centre’s booth, Thompson noted a small percentage of those in attendance were area people who use the Centre’s services. But with 1,375 applicants filing through, that still amounts to a significant number — and many of those had been at the Wellington Street facility earlier in the week, sharpening up their resumés in anticipation of Wednesday’s event.
Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League, was impressed by the quality of workers he saw at the Pyramid Centre. DiCenzo headed up an earlier attempt to secure financial backing for a remoulded tire factory in Ontario, but that plan failed to materialize. He pointed to support from Patterson and the Safety League as a key reason why, this time, the estimated $37-million Green Arc plan was able to find investors.
“This line is full of people with skills,” Patterson said at last week’s job fair. “Some of them look like they’re ready to work today. They’ve got their workboots on and they have the skills that we need . . . You can tell from the jackets. Trucking companies, service companies, you name it. They’re proud of what they do and what they’re skilled at, and they want to make this a success.”
DiCenzo says the deal for the purchase of the former Dana plant closes at the end of December, but Green Arc has already been afforded limited access to the building. They’ll hold a public Open House in a room at the plant on Friday, Dec. 13 from 7-9 p.m. to provide information about their plans.
There are seven people employed by the company right now. “There will be some immediate needs once we occupy the building,” DiCenzo noted. “We’ll probably put 30-40 people to work right away.”
He added that, hopefully, the first tires will roll off the line in mid-March.
Even people who weren’t able to make it to the job fair have been finding ways to make it known they’d like to work for Green Arc. O’Brien had been in contact with a couple currently living in Western Canada, originally from St. Marys, who found her contact information and wanted to make sure they could submit resumés even though they weren’t able to be in Ontario on Wednesday. And she encourages others to make the effort to do the same.
“We never want to turn anyone away,” she said, adding resumés can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then, looking across the steady stream of job-seekers already filing through the Pyramid Centre, she smiled, “we’re off to a flying start.”