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Thousands of Valley unemployed find hope at Turlock job fair
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The job fair was a benefit not only to job seekers, but also to employers who said finding qualified applicants was usually a time-consuming venture.

For job hunters, Turlock was the place to be on Wednesday.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds played host to the massive Central Valley Job Fair, hosted by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) and facilitated by the Stanislaus Alliance. Denham said the event was organized to address what he sees as the number one issue in the region: job creation.

“I believe that my job as a legislator isn’t just about legislation,” Denham said. “It is what you’re doing to support your community.”

The job fair drew 1,300 preregistered job hunters, with thousands more registering on-site. Denham said he was excited by the turnout.

But it wasn’t just jobseeker turnout that enthused Denham – it was the participation of 47 businesses in the job fair, from Google to McDonald’s and Hilmar Cheese. More than that, each and every participating business was required to have real jobs they were hiring for.

The stipulation isn’t common in job fairs, but it made a difference, according to Stanislaus Alliance CEO Bill Bassitt.

“It’s just spectacular,” Bassitt said.”Three hundred job titles and over 500 different jobs is nothing short of an inspiration in this economy.”

One attendee said the Central Valley Job Fair was eight to 10 times larger than the average job fair he has attended. He said it looked like a job fair during the 1990s economic boom, with tens of companies offering real jobs.

David Darmstandler, co-owner of Modesto tech firm Datapath, Inc., said participating in the job fair made sense for businesses, too, given the difficulty of finding qualified applicants.

From 200 applications, perhaps only two or three meet the appropriate qualifications and experience, Darmstandler said. But even then, those employees need to be a good fit with the corporate culture – a unique trait hard to find without conducting face-to-face interviews.

In just hours of the Central Valley Job Fair opening, though, Darmstandler said he’d already found someone who seemed like he could be a great fit.

“It might have taken us months to find that guy,” Darmstandler said. “The hiring process is tough.”

Hemanta Agarwala of Turlock’s Alpha Inc. said he’d found a couple of good applicants in just a short time, too. That’s despite looking for specialized experience, in fields like industrial electric work and poultry sales.

“The concept is fantastic,” Agarwala said. “It’s well-organized and well-managed.”

Jobseekers enjoyed the event as well, though long lines to speak with employers and high temperatures made the job fair stressful for some.

“I like Goodwill, but the line is long,” said Glory Hernandez, of Waterford, eyeing a queue with at least 30 jobseekers.

Tod Hoyer, of Turlock, waited through one of the longest lines at the job fair – Foster Farms’. Hoyer didn’t know whether or not he’d get the warehouse job he wanted, but for him, the wait was worthwhile.

“I’ve got my foot in the door, at least,” Hoyer said.