Nearly 50 area employers and hundreds of job seekers Thursday at Workforce Solutions Texoma’s annual Career Connection job fair. The event, which was held at Denison’s Hilton Garden Inn and Texoma Event Center, looks to connect employers with qualified job candidates.


“We have almost 50 employers here who are all hiring for open positions,” WST Executive Director Janie Bates said, describing the event as the biggest job fair of the year. “One of the requirements for this job fair is that they have to be actively hiring for these positions.”


The event included booths for many area industrial employers, including Presco, Denison Industries and Finisar, who announced plans to start operations in the former MEMC building in Sherman late last year. As the doors opened to the event, more than 100 people filed into the room, with most lining up immediately at the Finisar booth.


Bates said the event has always brought in larger crowds, but she feels that the news about Finisar likely will fuel interest in this year’s event. The company will manufacture vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser technology that will be used in Apple products.


“There is an exciting company coming in, so people are very interested in that,” Bates said.


With the large crowds, Bates said it almost stood in contrast to recent trends of low unemployment rates, which recently hit a modern low of 2.9 percent. However, Bates said she thinks the new employer has spurred some to consider changing jobs. Bates compared the interest at this year’s job fair to when Target announced plans to move to Sherman.


“The day we started hiring for Target, we actually had to send half the people home to tell them to come back at noon because we couldn’t accommodate them all,” she said.


Officials for Finisar said they had received nearly 100 resumes and applications within the first hour of the event for the nearly 590 positions at the facility. These positions include everything from operations technicians to manufacturing, human resources and administration positions, among others.


For this year’s job fair, Beverly Lambert, director of global talent for Finisar, said the electronic parts manufacturer had eight recruiters actively speaking with individuals in the line.


“They are all going non-stop and that is great, but we haven’t been able to stop and take a breath,” she said.


Lambert said many of those who were apply were from the area, but noted that some were from the Dallas-Fort Worth area or nearby suburbs. The applicants also had a broad list of skill sets, Lambert said, but many came from manufacturing backgrounds.


“I spoke to one man who was in facility management and had been in it for 33 years,” she said. “So it is a little bit of everything.”


Despite the high interest in Finisar, Ryan McDowell said she wasn’t interest in the new employer and instead was inquiring about an opening at the Denison Public Library. Unfortunately, a representative for the city said the position had just been filled, but there was a temporary position within the building department.


McDowell said she has not been in the job market until recently as she was considering a change in careers to something that would allow her to have more energy for her four young children at home. Currently, she said she was looking for clerical or hospitality work.


With the heavy interest in Finisar, other industrial employers said they might also be able to benefit from the momentum. Just two booths down from Finisar, representatives for Presco were looking to hire about six additional staff members for jobs ranging from quality control and maintenance to entry level positions.


Don Denges, vice president of operations for Presco, said he wanted people to know that Presco was in Sherman and was willing to train workers on the job.


“If they can pass a drug test and show up to work, we can put them to work and train them,” he said. “We have been in Sherman since ‘89 but people don’t know we are here.”


Meanwhile, across the room, representatives for Denison Industries said they have had good luck recruiting in recent months despite the record low unemployment. While the foundry was recruiting for just 14 positions, Operations Manager Chris Towery said he had received three times that number in applications.


“It has been great so far today,” he said. “We’ve talked to about 40 people and it has been open for just about 30 minutes.”


Towery attributed the favorable recruitment to increased advertising efforts on the part of the company. Now, the business receives more than 100 applications a month.


“Once we started to do advertising, we’ve been able to keep up,” he said. “Before that, we would have had 11 applications for 10 positions.”