Expo organized to help area jobless

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 35 views 

Persistent unemployment and the expected loss of more manufacturing jobs in the Fort Smith region has caused several groups to organize a “Work, Wealth & Wellness Expo” to help people with a wide range of issues often related to losing a job.

The free event is set for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 7, at the Fort Smith Convention Center.

“This event isn't just about helping people find future employment,” Brad Lewis of United Financial Advisors and co-founder of the event, noted in a statement. “It deals with all areas of people's lives after a layoff: jobs, insurance, financial planning, credit counseling, self-employment opportunities and education.”

The number of unemployed during December (the most recent month data is available) was 10,342, ahead of the 10,292 in November but more than 1,000 jobs below the 11,354 during December 2010. The number of employed during December was an estimated 119,722, almost 2% below the 122,093 during November and below the 121,979 during December 2010.

The size of the workforce fell to 130,064 during December, well below the 132,385 during November. March 2004 was the last time the regional workforce was below 130,000.

Whirlpool will close its Fort Smith manufacturing plant in mid-2012, with at least 1,000 jobs lost. There are also concerns about future employment at Rheem and Trane manufacturing plants in Fort Smith, not to mention the potential for job losses as a result of the announced mission change for the 188th Fighter Wing.

“So often the idea of being ‘laid-off’ comes only with the thought of creating new jobs to maintain a balance, but there can be a time in between these phases when a family may endure other struggles,” said event co-founder Miles Crawford of Suite Staffing.

Activities and information planned for the Expo include:
• Financial advisors will be present for 401k/pension advice;
• Professionals from collections agencies will help attendees understand their rights if they have fallen behind on their bills;
• Human resource experts from area companies have volunteered to offer advice and pointers on resumes;
• Health insurance professionals will attend to provide info on insurance coverage options   and issues;
• Computers will be provided with resume software and professional HR guidance will help them appealing to decision makers; and,
• A kids area with games and supervision will be available so parents can get the help they need.

“We will also have consultants who specialize in securing funding for small businesses and start-ups in our area,” Crawford said.

The organizers said those who attend to receive services are expected to turn in a resume before they leave. The resume may be brought to the event or created during the expo.

Other event participants include the Arkansas Small Business Technology and Development Center; University of Arkansas at Fort Smith; Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce Small Business Committee; FORGE (Financing Ozarks Rural Growth and Economy); Healthquest and Arcadian.