Job fair held at former site of Fleetwood Travel Trailers

Officials hoped to attract businesses to the Stanley E. Fulton Industrial Complex

May 21, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
  • Brian Keefer of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., fills out a job application Friday at a job fair held in Hancock.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

HANCOCK -- For a few hours Friday, 35 South Street was again a center of employment activity in Hancock.

Once the site of Fleetwood Travel Trailers, one of the town's largest employers, the mostly-vacant building was opened to the public Friday for a job fair sponsored by the town and the Washington County Job Center.

Five years and two jobs after being laid off from the trailer manufacturing plant, Hancock resident Greg Unger found himself back in the lunch room of the building where he had worked for 15 years.

Watching job seekers circulate among the booths, Unger, 48, and Bob Reynolds, 55, reminisced about a time when Fleetwood employed close to 400 people.

Like many Hancock-area residents who made up the town's once-booming manufacuring economy, the two have grown used to the cycle of layoffs and unemployment that seems to chase them from one job to the next.


After the Hancock plant closed in 2005, Unger worked briefly for Fleetwood's Williamsport-area plant until it, too, closed in 2007. Six weeks ago, he was laid off from Action Products, a synthetic rubber manufacturing company in Hagerstown.

"It seems like it's kind of hard to keep your head up when manufacturing jobs in this country pretty much don't exist anymore," Unger said.

Reynolds worked at Fleetwood for 18 years, then another 18 years at Rayloc, which ceased production in March 2008. He said he has been without work for two years and has been living on his 401K savings since his unemployment benefits ended in February.

The men were among more than 100 people who attended the fair in the first hour alone, according to Western Maryland Labor Exchange Administrator Suzette Snyder.

The fair's 18 participating employers were seeking applicants for a variety of positions, including nurses, security guards, construction workers, truck drivers, warehouse workers and sales agents.

Dan Wasenmiller, restaurant manager at the Hancock Hardee's, could attest to the promise those opportunities represented.

"I got my job at (a job fair) and now I'm hosting at one," he said.

But not everyone found what they were looking for at the fair.

Michael Fox, 24, of Hancock, said he works part time at Walmart, but was seeking a job where he could use the computer science degree he earned last year.

Fox said he was glad to see a job fair in his hometown, but expected it to attract more employers than it did.

"Even though it's a small town, I figured with the number of unemployed people, there would have been more of a selection," he said.

Unger and Reynolds also said they would have liked to see more employers participate, but appreciated town officials' efforts to bring a fair to town.

"You've got to give the guys credit for trying," Unger said.

Snyder said she didn't think the job center had ever before hosted a fair in Hancock. The idea came about when a town council member approached the center about putting a display in a vacant storefront in the town, she said.

Town Manager David Smith, who helped coordinate the fair, said town officials suggested holding it in the former Fleetwood building in hopes that the employers might spread the word about the available space.

The town of Hancock bought the building in 2008 and has been marketing it to companies around the country in hopes of bringing jobs back to the town. The building is now called the Stanley E. Fulton Industrial Complex after a wealthy former resident who donated the money for the town to buy it.

Unger and Reynolds agreed attracting a company to the building would be a major boon to the local economy.

"You could put 300 people to work in this place," Unger said. "That's what this town needs."

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