NEWTON, IOWA — It started as a way to help laid-off TPI workers get back on their feet. Newton’s largest employer, TPI, the maker of wind turbine blades announced in October it would be closing, laying off around 710 employees. So Iowa Works, a part of Iowa Workforce Development, decided to hold a job fair there.
“We have around 45 companies here today, and another 45 companies later this afternoon, and another 45 more companies here tomorrow morning,” said Jeff Granui, a spokesperson for Iowa Works. “This number of employers was driven by employers, we did not use a distribution list, we did not send out an invitation, employers contacted us.”
The employers came needing lots of workers. JBS of Marshalltown was even here the next day after the plant closing was announced passing out flyers to workers leaving TPI for the day.
“Ideally we’d love to have 130, but I have 100 is pretty much the number we’re looking at right now,” said Mirna Sanchez, a recruiter for JBS of Marshalltown. Her company was also offering free tuition for a two-year degree at Marshalltown Community College for workers and their families, and $20 an hour starting pay.
“In our market been in the ag business is booming right now so we’re looking to hire between 50-100 people,” said Lester Brewer, VP of Operations for Titan Tire. He added that his company is finalizing negotiations for a new contract with the union.
“So we’re looking for about 30 people between our two facilities,” said Janell Karsten, of Thombert Company of Newton, a producer of polyurethane forklift tires. “So our Brooklyn location we offer 40 hour work weeks which are four 10-hour days or three day work week which are 12 hour days.”
The fair was structured around TPI shifts so all employees could try to attend. TPI workers seemed to be optimistic about landing a new job soon.
“I have a drive 40 minutes for most of my time for this job so I’ll be like to find something closer to home now,” said Kelly Lewis, a TPI worker from Des Moines.
“Whenever TPI closes, I am going to be ready and available to go somewhere else,” said Edu Aradon, a TPI worker. “It looks like there is a lot of opportunities here, so I have a few of them in mind already.”
“Just looking at this point, I’m open to any opportunities that I can find at this point,” said Patrick Cupples, a TPI worker from Newton.
The fair was spread out over three sessions on Thursday and Friday at the DMACC Newton Campus.