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45 employers, 400 job seekers take part in West Side Job Fair Job prospects improved in Buffalo region

Cindy Betancourt didn't hear until after she moved from Connecticut that finding a job in the Buffalo Niagara region could be tough. But now that she has spent a month in Buffalo and made a stop at a job fair on Niagara Street Thursday, she thinks something good will come.

"I'm confident that I'll find something and that I'll be OK," said Betancourt, 29, who has been living in North Buffalo with her mother and stepfather. Compared to the small town outside New Haven where she had been supervising customer service for a golf accessories company, Buffalo seems bustling with people and traffic.

State labor statistics show the Erie and Niagara county job prospects have improved some: The region added 1,300 jobs in the past year, a 0.5 percent increase.

At the third annual "West Side Job Fair," timed to coincide with Hispanics Heritage Month, Betancourt's optimism was matched by others looking for work or to hire.

About 400 job seekers came to the Holy Cross Church gym -- about 100 less than last year -- and talked to 45 employers offering jobs as payroll analysts, teachers, flight service ticket checkers, bilingual banking assistants, and home health aides, among others. The New York State Department of Labor sponsored the event -- an idea developed by the Erie County Workforce Development Consortium and Hispanics United.

To prepare, Betancourt had put on her work look. Hair pulled back, button down shirt, black pants. After 30 minutes of stopping by the tables set with candy dishes and brochures, Capital Management said it was going to call her about one of the collections jobs they had open. More employers told her to go online and fill out applications. "You just have to go out there and look," she said with an assured stare.

Janice Stoll was among those with jobs to offer. As the office manager of Perma Tech she's been looking for more people to work sewing machines and stitch the company product -- padded seals that fit around loading dock doorways and keep out the cold.

Perma Tech wanted to expand, she said, but it couldn't without more workers.

She'd come to the fair hoping to find one, or maybe two who could sew. After a couple of hours at the fair, she'd gathered five resumes for the $7 an hour job.

"I'm very pleased," she said. "This has been a good experience for us."

Miguel Caballero, a Puerto Rico native, already has one job offer, but it would force him to move to Endicott, to work in customer service for the state Department of Labor.

He came to the job fair because he'd rather work in Buffalo, where his wife has family.

He has two weeks to find something local and give proper notice to his prospective employer.

For now, until grant money runs out in December, he has work as a Hope VI caseworker helping people in the West Side neighborhood find jobs and housing.

As he went from table to table, he got lucky: AIDS Community Services had just posted a job for a housing caseworker.

"We're always looking for Spanish and bilingual people," said Gloria Mack, the human resources coordinator.

Caballero said the financial troubles in Erie County and Buffalo make finding work hard. His clients count on his help. "Some people need that extra push to dare to apply for that job," he said after giving his resume to Mack.

"I just want to make sure I find something because I still believe in Buffalo," he said. "So we'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks."

e-mail: mkearns@buffnews.com

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