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News Story
Updated: 01/06/2013 08:00:00AM

Polk racing to fill jobs

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A ribbon cutting marking the start of the "Race to Place" initiative was held in front of the Polk Works Mobile One Stop recently at the Lake Wales Public Library. Polk Works was aiming to place at least 10,000 job seekers by June 30 of this year.

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Polk Works, which has started an ambitious undertaking to put thousands of job seekers to work, is getting assistance in overcoming a potential obstacle for some people.

“Race to Place” is an initiative to place at least 10,000 job seekers into positions in the first half of 2013. Polk Transit, comprised of Citrus Connection, Winter Haven Area Transit and Polk County Transit Services, have pledged to provide $1,000 worth of 24 hour day passes to individuals who are in need of transportation for interviews. In total, 334 passes will be given to the initiative and will be distributed by Polk Works.

As the administrator of workforce funds for Polk County, Polk Works is able to distribute supportive services including transportation assistance to job seekers that are determined eligible through state and federal guidelines. Through this partnership with Polk Transit, the organization will have flexibility to provide a pass to an individual who may not be enrolled in an eligible program but still have a need for transportation.

“The generosity of Polk Transit will allow our staff to meet a basic need of a job seeker who has an interview lined up and is dedicated to their job search. As we work to live our mission to ensure and sustain a quality workforce, Polk Works is eager to assist in resume review, mock interviews, and access to interview appropriate clothing through the One-Stop Career Centers,” Stacy Campbell-Domineck, president and CEO of Polk Works, said in a press release.

Job seekers who would like to take advantage of the business clothing, that includes shoes for women and men, will have to travel to either the One-Stop Career Center in Winter Haven or the one in Lakeland.

Campbell-Domineck said Wednesday at the Lake Wales Public Library during an open house event to launch the initiative some clothing could be brought to Lake Wales if a person or organization would donate space. Racks would be needed to hang the clothes. Events for this were also held at the One-Stop centers in Winter Haven and Lakeland Wednesday.

Mark Vignovic of JDC Phosphate in Fort Meade was at the event interviewing prospective employees. Vignovic, vice president of safety, health and environment as well as the interim human resources manager, said JDC plans to hire approximately 25 additional employees for a demonstration plant.

The company is looking for supervisors, operators, maintenance personnel and chemists. The wage range, based on qualifications and experience, is $17 to $24 an hour.

Vignovic said JDC seeks smart, conscientious employees whom he describes as “good people from the neck up.”

According to a press release, the demonstration plant will have annual production capacity of 12,000 tons per year of high quality and high concentration phosphoric acid.

The patented process technology being implemented in the plant is called the “Improved Hard Process.” The process utilizes low grade phosphate in a rotary kiln to produce high grade super phosphoric acid at lower cost than with the wet acid process. It has no solid waste products such as phosphogypsum.

Oakley Transport Inc. was another employer scheduled to be represented at Wednesday’s event but the company was not able to make it. Oakley does have some openings.

There are apparently thousands of jobs available in the county. According to the November 2012 Help Wanted Online report published by The Conference Board, there were 6,166 online advertised vacancies for Polk.

Campbell-Domineck said previously: “What this tells us, along with comments from employers and community partners, is that we need to do a better job connecting our employers, and we need employers, community partners and job seekers to run along side us in this race.”

As part of the “Race to Place” effort she said will be wearing running shoes every day to work for the first six months of this year.

In Bartow 334 jobs were posted online in that month while there were 309 in Lake Wales. Haines City had 171 openings and Fort Meade 104. There were 20 in Frostproof.

Polk Works doesn’t break down what jobs are available in a particular city. The jobs available in November included assistant pharmacy manager, human resources manager and chiropractic assistant.

The unemployment rate in Polk was 9 percent in November 2012.

Although there were some fluctuations throughout the year due to seasonality (weather, agriculture, school year) it was a decrease of 2.1 percentage points from the county’s rate in the same month in 2011.

The county’s rate hit a peak of 13.2 percent in November 2010 and since then has been steadily declining, according to Polk Works.

For those looking for jobs or to become a partner of “Race to Place,” visit the Polk Works’ website at or call 863-508-2916.