POINCIANA – Just weeks after Labor Day, Poinciana will host a jobs fair for vendors and subcontractors, in the hope of getting local residents ready for what’s expected to be thousands of construction jobs on the way in 2012.
The jobs fair was organized by a new group called the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance. Their goal is simple: to ensure that Poinciana residents get as many of those construction jobs as possible, helping to alleviate the high unemployment rate in this community of 70,000 residents since the housing market tanked in 2008.
“We’ve noticed that one of the big voids we have in the community was jobs,” said Nick Murdock, a member of the alliance. “So I said, ‘There’s enough coming up in 2012, so let’s have a jobs fair.’ We’re trying to find experienced people to fill those jobs.”
The fair will be held on Thursday, Sept. 22 from 6-8 p.m. at the Poinciana Community Center on Marigold Avenue. In the meantime, the Poinciana Digital Village – an online site and community resource center for Poinciana, which cuts across both Osceola and Polk counties – is collecting resumes from local residents and putting them online.
“I think I’m almost at 400 resumes,” said Darhlene Zeanwick, who operates the site. “We will put you in the database so when there are jobs, we can notify you. From there I advertise employment opportunities. Legoland, I’m advertising. CSX in Winter Haven is expanding, and I advertised that.”
Legoland Florida is a new theme park being built in Winter Haven by Merlin Entertainments, which also built the Legoland parks in Europe and California. The new theme park is expected to open in October.
Zeanwick, who is also a member of the alliance, said she’s ready to start advertising a series of construction projects slated to start up either this fall or next year. They include Poinciana’s first hospital and a medical arts facility that Osceola Regional Medical Center of Kissimmee is building here, the Southport Shopping Plaza off Pleasant Hill Road, and the SunRail commuter rail station being built near the Poinciana Industrial Park. Poinciana is the final stop along the 61-mile SunRail route from Volusia County to downtown Orlando, and then into Osceola County.
Murdock noted that these construction projects are expected to generate more than 4,000 jobs in 2012 – a big boost to the local economy.
“We decided to call it the 4,000-Plus Jobs in 2012 fair,” Murdock said. “And we’re looking at probably January and May next year to have similar job fairs.”
On Tuesday, the alliance met at the Starbucks in Poinciana to finalize plans for this fair, which they plan to advertise heavily over the next few months.
“It’s a public forum,” Zeanwick said. “Anybody can come to it.”
Zeanwick added that they plan to advertise the fair in neighboring communities as well, including Polk County.
“We’re doing Haines City, Davenport and the surrounding area,” she said.
In addition to commercial construction, Murdock noted that Osceola County is committed to an expanson of Marigold Avenue, one of the busiest roadways in Poinciana. The new Marigold Parkway, as it will be called, will extend from Poinciana to Ronald Reagan Parkway in Polk County, close to both U.S. 27 in Davenport and to the Interstate 4 exit at ChampionsGate. That road widening project, he said, will create 2,500 construction jobs here.
“A lot of these jobs are coming up in three, six and nine months,” Murdock said.
The fair will offer a resume writing table, Zeanwick said. Volunteers will be available to help residents write a resume on the spot.
“As soon as they leave our table, they will have a resume and can go to the next table to apply for a job,” she said.
The alliance is inviting companies that are hiring to set up booths at the fair.
“We want licensed vendors and qualified vendors,” Murdock said.
Wendy Farrell, another member of the alliance, said they also hope to connect with Poinciana High School on this project.
“They have an engineering and construction academy at the high school,” she said, which can help provide training for the jobs being created.
Letha Vanderhei, who also is a member of the alliance, said they got together and organized this fair for one simple reason: to help improve Poinciana’s struggling economy.
Poinciana rode a building boom in the past decade, as the population soaring by more than 200 percent. For a while, builders could barely keep up with demand for new homes. As the population increased, the community of 10 villages also experienced a commercial construction boom.
But when the housing market crashed in 2008, Poinciana’s economy was badly hurt as the recession left the community with a painfully high inventory of unsold homes and a skyrocketing home foreclosure rate. The unemployment rate also went up.
“I want to help these people because I know a lot of these people have been unemployed for a long time,” Vanderhei said.
To learn more about the jobs fair, log on to the Poinciana Digital Village, call Zeanwick at 407-738-8042, or email her at Darhlene@PoincianaDV.com.
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