Friday morning at Macon’s Wilson Convention Center, the line of job seekers looped around the lobby and down to the exhibit hall.
They came by the hundreds. They came early, some arriving two hours before the job fair, hosted by the new hotel next door, even started. And they kept coming.
The Macon Marriott City Center kicked off a three-day job fair Thursday. The hotel has 60 full-time and part-time jobs to fill before it opens in early September. By noon, it had more than 1,200 applicants.
Gordon Garner was first in line.
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Garner, 39, of Macon, left a real estate job earlier this month. Thursday, he had no specific position in mind at the hotel, saying “anything that will lead to management.”
“I’m tired of the volatility and the insecurity of what has happened with the economy that’s affected the real estate market,” Garner said. “So, here I am.”
Garner said he worked for Marriott in the 1980s.
“It’s a great company,” he said.
The 60 full- and part-time jobs at the hotel include front desk agents, concierges, housekeepers, engineers, banquet and restaurant staff, bartenders and Starbucks baristas.
Inside the exhibit hall, applicants were seated at 15 tables, 10 at each, where they filled out applications. A team of human resources specialists screened the applicants, then sent them to the hiring managers of various departments for a second interview.
Preferred applicants will be scheduled for final interviews and processing next week, said David Rosenberg, the hotel’s general manager.
Rosenberg said about 300 to 400 applicants were waiting in line at 8 a.m., an hour before the job fair began.
“In our local economy,” he said, “it’s fantastic to be adding jobs.”
Amy Kemp was one of the early arrivals. The 42-year-old Macon woman has been out of work for three years, since leaving her job for medical reasons.
“I got here about seven o’clock. There were four other people here,” she said.
Kemp said she returned to school, earning technical certificates in medical billing coding, medical office specialist and accounting. She hopes that training transfers into a hotel job at the front desk or accounts receivable.
Medina Williams, 39, of Macon, came looking for a full-time job, hopefully in housekeeping or the laundry room, where she has about five years of experience.
“It’s really been hard since the economy’s been down,” Williams said.
Latosha Jenkins, 24, a full-time business student at Central Georgia Technical College, stood in the long line outside the exhibit hall Thursday morning. She’s set to graduate next semester and was hoping to land a front desk position or some other customer service job.
“It seems that no one’s getting jobs anymore,” said Jenkins. “Everybody’s getting discouraged. A lot of people have degrees, and they’re not getting jobs in their fields.”
The job fair opened on a day when state officials announced the Macon area’s unemployment rate had climbed into double digits. It continues today and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Marriott officials said about 300 to 400 more applicants turned out for a second session Thursday afternoon.
The 220-room, full-service convention center hotel features a restaurant, lounge and 5,000 square feet of meeting space. Developed and operated by Noble Investment Group, the hotel is nearing completion on a nearly 4-acre tract next to the Macon Coliseum and Wilson Convention Center. Through the sale of revenue bonds, Macon has contributed about $10 million to the $37 million project.
Rosenberg said early bookings have been strong.
“We’ve got a number of conventions already booked for October, November and December,” he said.