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McLean County Chamber Seeks Applicants Near And Far For Job Fair

Elise Amendola/AP
A "Now Hiring" sign is displayed on a business window, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Salem, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The McLean County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a walk-up job fair on Thursday, June 3, as Bloomington-Normal employers seek to fill more than 1,200 job openings.

More than 50 businesses are participating across a variety of job fields, including restaurants, hotels, manufacturing, health care, local government, law enforcement, and more.

The job fair will be hosted from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Eastland Mall parking lot near the former Bergner’s store.

Tori Weinberg, marketing and communications manager for the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, said the event will offer employers an opportunity they haven’t had in a while: to connect with job seekers in person.

“Virtual job fairs have been offered throughout the pandemic, which were a great alternative for an in-person job fair. However, there’s no real draw or accountability to get people to sign on and interact with these employers,” Weinberg said. “We’re hoping we can incentivize applicants to come out and actually talk face-to-face and interview with people right on the spot.”

Weinberg said Bloomington-Normal is experiencing a huge job boom, but also a worker shortage.

The Twin Cities picked up about 1,300 jobs between March and April, according to latest figures from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The area’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.8%—the lowest rate since last fall, but still above pre-pandemic levels.

Weinberg said unemployment is not terribly high, in the grand scheme of things, but she notes there are other factors at play outside of job availability.

“There are some grumblings of frustration, thinking that that’s somehow encouraging people not to get back to work. I would argue, however, that we are just experiencing a surplus of jobs and a shortage of workers,” Weinberg said. “We also recognize and our members recognize that there are other obstacles to returning to work after the pandemic. A lot of people can’t balance out those childcare costs versus going back to work.”

To address the worker shortage, Weinberg said the Chamber of Commerce is trying to expand outreach outside of Bloomington-Normal by engaging the commuter market.

“The surrounding communities do have higher unemployment rates than Bloomington-Normal itself, and so we’re really trying to get those people to commute to Bloomington-Normal,” Weinberg said. “People who either want to commute or want to ... move to Bloomington-Normal—we’re really trying to target those individuals to help out our members.”

Weinberg said that includes job seekers from nearby communities like Lexington and LeRoy, but also larger metro areas like Peoria and Champaign-Urbana.

Weinberg said organizers are hoping to attract applicants by offering a free food truck and free photo headshots, among other benefits.

Applicants are encouraged to bring their official ID and several copies of their resume. Those without a resume can fill out a standard application on the chamber’s website.

Participating employers include: 309 AutoworX, Afni, Ancho & Agave, Ashley Furniture HomeStore, The Baby Fold, Beer Nuts, Biaggi’s, Bloomington-Normal YMCA, Brandt Industries, Bridgestone, Carle BroMenn Medical Center, Chestnut Health Systems, Cintas Corporation, City of Bloomington, Comfort Suites of Normal, Connect Transit, Country Financial - McLean County Agency, Courtyard by Marriott Bloomington/Normal, Creative Sites Media, DoubleTree by Hilton, Epiphany Farms Hospitality Group, Evergreen Place of Normal, Evergreen Village, Express Employment Professionals, Four Seasons Health Club, Gailey Eye Clinic, Heritage Health, Holiday Inn Hotel at the Airport, Illinois State University, Jack Lewis Jewelers, Keplr Vision, Lil Beaver Brewery, Little Jewels Learning Center, Manpower, Marcfirst, Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, McDonald's Restaurants, McLean County Government, McLean County Unit 5, Pantagraph Media, Parke Regency Hotel, PeopleLink Staffing, PrideStaff, Regional Office of Education #17, RobDob’s Restaurant & Bar, STL Staffing, Synergy HomeCare, Synergy Flight Center, Tentac Enterprises, The Villas of Hollybrook, Town of Normal, Vostermans Ventilation, Westminster Village, Wilber & Associates, and Young America Realty.

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