POINCIANA — It was a healthy sign early in the morning when Monica Livingstone and Wendy Farrell got to the Poinciana Community Center.
What they found, before 8 a.m. had arrived, was something very encouraging: a line waiting for them.
“I got here at a quarter to 8, and people were already in line,” Livingstone said.
“We had, probably by the time we opened the doors, about 20 to 25 people outside,” Farrell said.
As the morning went on, more and more people showed up — so many, in fact, that there was a wait before anyone could get interviewed. Inside the auditorium of the Community Center, a section with plenty of chairs had been set aside for those people.
“All of those chairs were full,” Farrell said.
What those people had turned out for wasn’t a recreational event, but something far more important to their long term future. The event was the first in what’s expected to be a series of job fairs in Poinciana, held to give residents an opportunity to take advantage of more than 7,000 construction jobs coming to this community. A lot of those jobs will be tied in to the new Poinciana Medical Center, the first hospital in this community. Construction work on the hospital’s foundation started on Feb. 18, and the hospital will open next year.
Saturday’s job fair was not related to that project, though. The job fair held on Saturday was sponsored by the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, a group formed last summer to help promote job growth and more business opportunities in this fast-growing community of 84,000. The chairman, Nick Murdock, has scheduled a job fair for June 9 to connect residents with construction and possibly medically-related jobs tied in to the new hospital.
Saturday’s job fair was held at the request of Quality Labor Management, an employment agency in Winter Park that is now recruiting workers for a variety of construction jobs in Central Florida. Quality Labor learned about PEDA’s work and offered to accept resumes for positions in construction projects across the region.
“They have construction jobs available right now,” said Farrell, a member of PEDA. “Especially if they’re qualified.”
Murdock said so many people showed up that he spent the entire day interviewing people about their qualifications, and then arranging interviews with representatives from Quality Labor Management.
“People are going to get hired here today, so that’s exciting,” Murdock said.
Poinciana rode a residential construction boom in the past decade, and at the height of the real estate market between 2004 and 2007, new homes were being constructed every 90 days.
But when the housing market crashed in 2008, the building boom came to a halt and Poinciana lost hundreds of jobs related to that field. At the same time, the community got saddled with a high number of vacant homes and foreclosed properties.
Now the economic picture is starting to look a bit brighter. Osceola Regional Medical Center of Kissimmee is now building the Poinciana Medical Center, which will include an emergency room facility and a separate medical arts building with offices that local physicians can rent. There are other construction projects in the works, including the widening of Poinciana Boulevard, the Poinciana Parkway toll road, and the commuter rail station at Poinciana Boulevard and Orange Blossom Trail for the SunRail line.
That’s why PEDA was formed, to do everything possible to match local residents desperately in need of work with the jobs being created here.
Quality Labor Management is not associated with the hiring of construction positions for those projects.
“They’re not necessarily hiring for Poinciana jobs,” Farrell noted.
But that didn’t matter much, since Quality Labor Management at least was able to offer people positions in other parts of the region.
What PEDA didn’t have to offer at the job fair, Farrell noted, were any jobs related to Poinciana Medical Center.
“We had a lot of people show up for medically-related jobs, and we’re taking their information,” she said.
“They (Quality Labor) are basically a construction company, and theirs is for construction positions, although we are taking applications for non-construction workers as well,” Livingstone said.
PEDA was accepting applications for site work positions, project managers, electricians, and general laborers. Most of the most who showed up were looking for general labor jobs.
In the meantime, the PEDA volunteers who turned out for Saturday’s job fair were pleased at how many people showed up.
“This is very encouraging,” Livingstone said. “This is wonderful. A good crowd came out, and they’re in by waves.”
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