They came by the hundreds on Thursday, standing in the warm morning air and the hot afternoon sun with one goal in mind: to get a part-time job at the new Target in Augusta.
By noon, more than 500 people - young and old, black and white, professional and not - had applied for 150 managerial, supervisory and guest-service positions on site at the discount department store. It will open at 3658 Walton Way Extension in the Augusta Exchange shopping center Oct. 12.
Target and Georgia Department of Labor officials, who were processing applications, expect 2,000 people to apply by the time the job fair ends Saturday. The store is expected to employ 180 people, including 30 full-time workers already in place, when it opens.
The job fair will continue 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
One Target official said people were lined up at 6:30 a.m. to apply. The process of trying to work in Target's "Fast, Fun and Friendly" culture began at 8 a.m.
"I guess we have a lot of people because its a new business," said Kathleen Shiflett of the state Labor Department. "All the people who are applying are excited."
"We're certainly excited about being here," said Latrice Kennedy, who is over human resources at the new store. "It's an untapped market."
The number of people applying didn't surprise Dexter Jones, who had recently moved back to south Augusta after being in Atlanta.
"Employment opportunities around here are so bad that when something like this comes around, everybody goes for it," he said.
Figures released Thursday by the state Labor Department show that metropolitan Augusta, which includes Aiken County, lost 1,100 jobs in July, due to seasonal layoffs mostly in the service producing industries, manufacturing and government sectors. The retail trade sector showed an increase of 0.3 percent.
Thousands of layoffs at the Savannah River Site over the years as well as plant closings in the area have left people without jobs. The Augusta area was in a mild recession last year, economists say, and the unemployment rate was the highest in the state. Although the rate has eased this year, it is still second highest in the state, at 6.9 percent in June. Augusta's jobless rate increased faster than any other major city in the state. The July rate will be reported later this month.
On Thursday, 200 workers at the Amity Dyeing & Finishing textile plant in Augusta were told the plant will close Aug. 30.
Last month, U.S. Industries told 500 workers at the Sunlite Casual Furniture plant in Waynesboro that the plant would close.
And federal employees have found out that one in six federal workers at SRS could get pink slips early next month. Since the early 1990s, SRS' federal work force has dropped from 660 to 550 through attrition.
Mr. Jones and several other people surveyed in line at Target had retail experience, mostly by way of fast-food enterprises, and were itching for a job.
People such as Daniela Winkler, a North Augusta High School senior, were looking for work to gain money for college. Mamie Dumas and Lavelle Tennyson have been looking for work since graduating in June from Glenn Hills High in Augusta.
Carolyn Hammonds of Evans, who sported a business suit, is getting back into the job market after staying at home with her children for three years. "Now I'm trying to get my career back," she said, adding that she has seven years of retail experience.
Judy Harkins is looking for a day job. "I had to quit one job months ago because of an overnight schedule. I've been looking ever since," she said, adding it was worth standing in the hot sun for a chance to work.
Londa Freeman of Lincolnton, who is looking for a new job while in college, said she had "all kinds of experience." She recently quit her job as a bookkeeper at the Publix in Evans.
The Target management team wanted to make sure all applicants's time was worthwhile while moving through the two-hour process, which involved visiting three tents set up in the parking lot.
In the first tent, Target employees talked to applicants about what to expect when working for the company, such as there is no overtime work. Each group of about 40 applicants left the tent with a huge "Target!" yell.
In the next tent, applicants saw a videotape that shows how a Target store looks inside. In the third tent, people filled out applications for the jobs, which come with full benefits after a certain length of employment.
The store provided free food, drinks and entertainment, including a clown and a live remote by a local radio station.
Ms. Kennedy said each applicant will get an appointment for an interview. Store Manager Matt Dehn said the interview process will last about two weeks, starting next week. He and his team will then train the new employees, who will help prepare the store for its Oct. 12 opening.
What if Mr. Jones isn't one of the new Target employees?
"I'll just keep looking," he said. "I can't expect nobody else to pay the bills."
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