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New initiative hopes to ‘WOW’ job seekers

Suffolk’s Economic Development Department will be hosting a weekly, in-person Job Fair beginning Aug. 5.

The job fairs, known as Workforce Opportunity Wednesdays, will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Wednesday in the ballroom of the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront at 100 E. Constance Road.

The events are free and open to the public, and are a means of community outreach for businesses, as they will talk about what they do and their impacts on the city and region. And they will also be a way for people to connect with local businesses about jobs.

“We’re getting a lot of requests for employment assistance,” said Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes at City Council’s July 15 meeting. “We know it has to be done carefully and thoughtfully.”

The events will be a socially-distanced opportunity for job seekers to learn about employment opportunities with Suffolk-based businesses, and no more than five city businesses will be at each event. They will be spaced apart in following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines. Hand sanitizer and masks will be distributed at a dedicated entrance, and precautionary measures will be taken for the business representatives as well as job seekers.

The announcement of the job fairs comes on the heels of the EDA awarding dozens of small businesses COVID-19 small business grants during its June distribution, with 85 city businesses receiving $190,500. More than 800 Suffolk businesses received federal Paycheck Protection Program loan money from the Small Business Administration to help with their businesses in maintaining payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off and cover applicable overhead.

The Economic Development Department has been maintaining a list of city-based businesses actively seeking new employees, which can be found at www.yessuffolk.com/DocumentCenter/View/357/Job-List-7-10.

The weekly job fairs are scheduled to run at least through September. Anyone with questions can contact Terry Smith in the Economic Development Department at 514-4045 or at tasmith@suffolkva.us.

“The goal would be to do it every Wednesday moving forward with small groups in a large space,” Hughes said.