ROCK SPRING, Ga. - Tiffany Welch is a 22-year-old single mom with a high school diploma, and she's been out of work since December.
She'd like to go to college at Dalton State. She needs a job to pay for child care for her son. Originally from Chatsworth, Ga., she moved to Rock Spring because of the double-digit unemployment rate in the Dalton, Ga., area.
And on Wednesday, she left her son with his grandmother and joined about 500 other people at the 2013 Northwest Georgia Career Expo. About 40 employers were represented at the job fair, with hiring managers looking for retail clerks, store managers, truck drivers, factory workers and forklift drivers.
Welch scored. She landed an interview with Roper Corp. today at 1 p.m.
"This is a big, big thing for me, and it made it even better that she offered me the interview on the spot," the petite blonde said with a grin. "Hopefully it all works out."
Rhonda Beasley, human resources manager at Roper, said she expects to hire 200 temporary workers this year, with positions lasting between five weeks and four months.
"These fairs are very helpful, this is a good place to meet employees," Beasley said. "We'll take three to four applications for one good hire."
The fair was organized by the Georgia Department of Labor and the Walker County Chamber of Commerce's Business and Industry Council. North Georgia has been the hardest-hit part of the state, said Mel Wages, a career expo coordinator with the Department of Labor.
Northwest Georgia's unemployment rate has been hovering around 9 percent for the last few months, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. In Dalton, unemployment was 11.9 percent in January.
"We've put special emphasis on having these job fairs and career expos here," Wages said. "We've been having readiness workshops, helping people with their resumes, preparing them to get back to work. So there's been a special emphasis on this North Georgia area."
Brittany Sprayberry, a recruiting specialist with staffing firm Express Employment Professionals, said she's seen an increase in the demand for manufacturing jobs during the past couple of years.
"Right now our primary focus is manufacturing," she said. "When Volkswagen came in, that's when things started to pick up. Not that we're only placing people with Volkswagen -- but it's been a ripple effect."
Debbie Strange, a 58-year-old who's been out of work for 10 years, attended the fair hoping to capitalize on that manufacturing buzz and find work in the carpet industry.
"Jobs are so hard to find," she said. "They're having these [fairs] everywhere, but it's a lot of computer stuff. It's hard, at my age, to go back."
Mohawk Industries is looking to hire about 40 local people, human resource manager Kristen Roberts said. She said the jobs fair is a good setting because it's face-to-face contact.
"It's very personal," she said. "They can tell you what they've done, and you automatically know if you have something for them or not."