More than 300 fill Peco job fair

(Top right) Brooksville plant manager Clarence Lumpkin answers questions from potential applicants.
Staff Writer

Hundreds of people show up, turning the search for a few dozen workers for one plant into a pool of potential workers for three different operations.

And it has Peco Foods optimistic about the future at its new West Point facility and its existing plant in Brooksville, Miss.

Saturday’s four-hour job fair turned into almost six at East Mississippi Community College. It initially was designed to fill 30 or 40 positions in the company’s freezer operation and distribution center in the old Americold Logistics plant on West Church Hill Road in West Point.

But when the crowd showed up, many with a variety of interests and skill sets, the company decided to include more in-depth interviews to help Brooksville processing plant manager Clarence Lumpkin build a labor pool and started getting people on a list for work at the par fry operation when it opens in the next 18 months.

“I drove up at 9 and the line of people already was around the building. I started calling everyone to make sure they got here early so our staff could start handling them all,” West Point plant manager Jordan Townsend said.

“We passed out more than 300 applications and we had about 225 came and stayed for the interviews. I’ve got another 50 to call to do interviews who couldn’t stay for everything,” Townsend continued.

“We had a really good turnout for maintenance and distribution workers and got about 100 production workers for Brooksville. And I was surprised to see how many people were willing to wait until our par fry opens. It’s humbling to think someone would wait that long to work with you.”
Townsend originally expected about 100 people would attend the job fair. But after he had conversations with city and county leaders in West Point, he adjusted his expectations to 200 to 300. He wasn’t disappointed.

“I filled 10 of my warehouse positions, four of my maintenance and one in shipping and have some people I have to call. I filled two-thirds of the positions I need.I am fairly confident I will have every job I need filled,” the plant manager noted.
And the applicant pool included experienced people, many who once worked at Bryan and have had to take jobs away from West Point in the 11 years since Bryan closed.

“I talked to people with five and eight and even 12 years tenure with their current job. Usually you get people with one or two years at a place looking for a better paycheck, but this was different. You could tell all the Bryan workers, they all ended in 2007. It’s just shocking, many of them just want to get back to work in West Point,” he concluded.

“I wanted to get here early and get my name in. I hear they are a good company and treat their people right,” said Lowndes County resident Evelyn Davis, who was in that early line.

“I’ve got some freezer and distribution experience. I think I would be good for them and they would be good for me. I’ve got a job, but I like what I see and hear about them, the stories I’ve read. I think they could be long-term for me,” said Al Barnes, a Clay County resident.

“It’s just a good chance. I am a hard worker and am willing to learn. This would be something good for me. I’ve been bouncing around a little bit,” said 23-year-old T.J. Justice.

Peco and staff from the WIN Job Center registered applicants, handed out information, including job applications for those interested in production jobs later, and answered questions.

They brought in groups of 75 or more for presentations and then divided them up for actual interviews with Townsend, Lumpkin or other Peco staff.

Peco, the nation’s eighth-largest poultry producer, began renovating the 190,000-square-foot Americold facility in May. The freezer operation will open in November or December, running from one to three shifts with as many as 40 workers. The company will soon start construction of a par fry plant adjacent to the freezer and distribution center.

Eventually the company will employ 300 or more workers.

Most of the jobs will pay $15 to $17 an hour.