By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – While the unemployment rate in Lafayette County is the lowest in Northeast Mississippi and among the lowest statewide, companies looking to hire new employees won’t have much problem finding applicants.
Witness the hundreds of people who filed through the Oxford Conference Center by mid-morning on Tuesday, looking to fill positions at a job fair for Winchester Ammunition.
Turnout was better than expected, said Valerie Peters, Winchester’s director of operations.
“It’s been tremendous,” she said. “The line wrapped around the building when we opened at 7:30 and we had people waiting at 6:15. We had to open the auditorium for a little while, and it seats 300 people.”
The company is transferring its Centerfire operations from East Alton, Ill., over the next five years and will employ some 800 workers.
Peters said Winchester intends to hire 200 to 250 people by the end of the year to fill a variety of jobs.
“We have some plant positions, where we’re looking for people who are mechanically inclined or worked in manufacturing before,” she said. “And highly motivated. Also, there are positions for those who may not be mechanically inclined but have worked in manufacturing, including quality control and IT.”
Winchester also is accepting applications and resumes so it can review them when other positions open in the future. Positions will be posted on the company’s website at www.winchester.com.
Peters also said interested applicants who couldn’t attend the job fair could visit area WIN Job Centers.
Among those looking to land a job Tuesday was Marilyn Toles of Oxford.
“I’ve been trying for a year and a half,” she said. “I was a machine operator where I was at and I did a little bit of everything. I worked on machines and I have a lot of skills …. I just need a job and I want to stay in Oxford. I’ve got some relatives in Memphis, but I’d rather be here.”
Chrisopher Davis, on the other hand, is looking for a management job. “Cost analyst, production management, something on the management side,” he said. “I haven’t worked in manufacturing but I do have nine years working restaurant and construction management.”
Winchester is building a 500,000-square-foot plant for its Centerfire operations, which makes rifle and pistol ammunition for commercial, military and law enforcement use.
And the company is no stranger to Oxford. Its parent company, Olin Corp., moved its Winchester Rimfire operations here in 2003 and its military packaging operations shortly afterward. Combined, the two operations employ about 350 workers. The new Centerfire facility is about three times the size of its Rimfire operations, Peters said.
Christy Knapp, the executive vice president of community and economic development for the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, said the big turnout at the job fair was no surprise.
“It’s a good opportunity to find out more about Winchester, which has great salary and benefits and a company that’s great to work for and is growing,” she said. “We’re attracting people not only from Oxford, but from all over. In north Mississippi, people are willing to travel to work.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.