OP-ED: August 22: A Job Fair for All
The City and the Business community respond to the NECCO Closure
By Mayor Brian M. Arrigo
The sudden shutdown of the NECCO plant on July 24 triggered a good amount of anger and disillusion. What kind of company spends $17.3 million in May, touts its experience and expertise while pledging to revive the NECCO brand, then brusquely reverses course, ruthlessly discarding some 230 dedicated employees as if they were just surplus candy wrappers?
Mind you, I knew full well that our City’s connection to NECCO’s future was tenuous: the candy company was expected to vacate the premises on American Legion Highway at the end of November. Meanwhile, we are enthusiastic about the site’s exceptional development potential under the ownership of Atlantic Management and VDM Companies.
And while the idea of hard-working people unexpectedly unemployed on the whim of billionaire investors rankled me, I knew complaining about it would serve no purpose. Rather than bemoan the circumstances, we aimed to extract some good of it. I wanted to be sure that my office would be a resource for displaced Necco workers, and now the effort we made in July can benefit the entire City of Revere, as well.
With the cooperation of reputable business leaders and the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development Rapid Response Team, I am pleased to announce a Job Fair that will be open to our entire community on Wednesday, August 22, at Rumney Marsh Academy from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. We hope that this Job Fair will spawn new career opportunities for NECCO workers and potentially for all the members of our community who are looking for work.
The seeds for the Job Fair were planted almost immediately after the news of NECCO’s demise became public. An early morning phone call from Ward Four councilor Patrick Keefe notified me that his boss, Roger Berkowitz of Legal Sea Foods, was interested in connecting with the newly unemployed to fill positions at many of the Legal Sea Foods restaurants. Dan Doherty, proprietor of our local treasure Kelly’s Roast Beef, called with the same message. And the calls started to pour in: John Hopkins, whose Five Way Foods this fall will fill the space long occupied by Bianco’s Sausage, called to say he will be looking for workers with food production experience. Easy Pie Restaurant in Revere and Braintree notified us that they were looking for help. Same with Great Eastern Seafood in Boston, The Charles Hotel, Nova Biomedical, BJ’s, The US Postal Service, The Transportation Security Administration, and on and on. The list of employers looking to contact former NECCO employees now numbers near 80.
When we held an informational session for displaced NECCO workers at Revere City Hall on July 30, some 75 workers filled the Council Chamber, and we lacked the space for all the prospective employers. But we took heart in the way that good people in the business community responded to Round Hill’s antics. The prevailing opinion of Round Hill reflected that expressed by Legal Sea Food’s Berkowitz, who was quoted in a Boston Globe article saying “These folks [Round Hill] could use a lesson in corporate ethics.”
As we coordinated with the state’s Rapid Response team for a full-fledged Job Fair to help the former NECCO employees, it became very apparent that in this booming economy, there would be more jobs available than there are laid off NECCO employees.
So we decided to open the Job Fair to the public. Though Revere’s low unemployment rate
(3.7 % in March according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics) mirrors that of the Commonwealth (3.5%), I am sure that there are many seeking new jobs or planning to return to the labor force. The Job Fair will provide a unique opportunity for interested candidates to meet prospective employers. It will be restricted to former NECCO employees only from 12:00 to 1:30, and open to the public afterward.
We expect between 50 and 60 employers will participate in the Job Fair with openings in manufacturing, transportation, health care, airport screeners, maintenance, bank tellers, cashiers, customer service – the list is quite extensive. Everyone is welcome.
July 24 was a dark day in the business world as the nation’s oldest candy company fell victim a corporate change of heart. But the good side of the business world, the bright lights of a shining economy, stepped into the breach. Yes, there is a potential benefit to those businesses who have clamored to connect with the former NECCO workers, but there is also the thread of decency among the employers who expressed their displeasure with Round Hill.
The City of Revere has no interest in being a haven for corporate raiders, but when a business in our community is affected by one, we stand ready to help. From Round Hill’s ruins, a City of Revere Job Fair rises. I’d say that is as sweet an idea as the candy that NECCO produced for the last 117 years.