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High School job fair gives hope to struggling Stow businesses

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Posted at 4:55 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 18:41:59-04

STOW, Ohio — At Vizmeg Landscape in Stow, you'll see a giant pile of brown mulch in the back of the business, but finding enough workers to spread it this summer is proving to be a challenge.

Donna Balc, HR recruiter for the Vizmeg, said the business is trying to hire up to a dozen people.

"It's very much needed. We are in the heat of the moment, so the need is there," Balc said.

At Beef O'Brady's, the story is much the same. A sign posted on a door shows the restaurant is hiring full-time and part-time positions. Part owner, Bob Frangos, said he needs servers, cooks and hostesses at his locations in Stow and Wadsworth.

"It doesn't matter where we go and where we look for employees, it's just a dead end," Frangos said.

Frangos believes finding workers amid the pandemic is challenging— in part — because extra unemployment benefits are keeping some from applying.

"I"m sure that has hurt us with the extra money. At one point, it was $600. Now it's $300. That could be the thing that's driving it right now," he said.

Recognizing that some Stow businesses are closing early due to staffing issues and that hiring is becoming increasingly difficult, the Stow-Munroe Falls School District, the Stow Munroe Falls Chamber of commerce and the city of Stow decided to do something about it.

They organized a job fair just for students at Stow-Munroe Falls High School on Tuesday and invited area businesses that have positions to fill. Vizmeg and Beef O'Brady's both attended the fair.

"We had 34 businesses and we had over 100 students participate," said Tracy Starnes with the Chamber of Commerce.

One of those students was 17-year-old Lucas Cimera, a junior at the high school. He's hoping to land his first job.

"It's like a stepping-stone. You get the experience like understanding, 'Okay this is what I have to do for the job. You have to be on time,'" Cimera said.

The teen applied at three places and feels good about his chances.

"I just got word back from Giant Eagle. I'm waiting for Goodwill right now and I'm waiting for Dunkin' Donuts right now," he said.

Starnes has heard from multiple businesses about hiring challenges. The idea for the school job fair was born after hearing from restaurant owners who mentioned they were competing for the same small pool of applicants.

Starnes said this was the first time the district, the chamber, and the city collaborated for the unique job fair and she's hopeful it will make a difference in the community.

"I said it would be a win-win if we just ended up with one with one, but hopefully we matched up more than that," she said.

Balc is optimistic about growing Vizmeg's staff after getting some leads at the job fair.

"I have a student coming in today and I have two more students coming in tomorrow and another one on Monday," Balc said.

Frangos is also feeling good about the possibility of new hires.

"I think we do have some good, positive leads. We got about 10 applications that look like they could work," Frangos said.