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Job opportunities abound in Charlotte ... someday (maybe) 


Since the end of last year, a number of businesses have announced plans to relocate to Charlotte and bring thousands of new jobs to the area.

The appliance company Electrolux, which began moving 350 workers (a mix of new hires and transfers from Georgia) to its University City headquarters, set down roots in Charlotte on July 12 and has plans to hire more employees; the electronics corporation Siemens will add 825 jobs over the next four years; Webvisible, an Internet advertising firm, announced in June that it will add 150 new jobs to the city; and outdoor power equipment company Husqvarna disclosed plans in January to hire 160 more workers over the next three years and invest $2.75 million in its Charlotte headquarters.

Those four businesses are just a few of the companies touting major hiring initiatives in the present and not-too-distant future. But despite the numerous job announcements, Charlotte is still sitting on an 11.1-percent unemployment rate. So, when will the city's displaced workers start seeing opportunities to work again?

Erin Watkins, research director for the Charlotte Chamber, said it will take at least a year to feel the impact of the new companies that have moved to the city.

"Once they move into town, upgrade, invest in the facilities and bring the people in — but we probably won't see the impact of that for a couple of years, depending on their situation and when they can actually be here," she said.

Veena Chillar, vice president of human relations for Webvisible, said filling positions at her company isn't just about taking on everyone who needs a job as they open their new office space in August.

"I think there is a perception ... that there are a lot of people out there who need work, but with our particular jobs, we look for specialized sales people who can sell our product. They haven't had to sell our product before, but there is a certain profile that we're looking for," said Chillar. "We do have somewhat of a hard time finding good people, but we are out there looking. Our most important initiative is to sell cleanly to the small business owner."

Some companies, like Electrolux, were given cash incentives to come to Charlotte. The global outfit received a state grant of $1.2 million to relocate, and Electrolux spokesperson Blythe Reiss said the company is on track to hire 738 people over the next five years.

"We've been hiring and there are more people being hired. The move into the new building will happen over a course of time," said Reiss.

Brad Richardson, economic development manager for the city of Charlotte, said what we're experiencing right now is a jobless recovery.

"We're seeing recovery and people are talking about economic recovery starting, but unemployment is remaining high. This is a recovery in confidence and output. Jobs are lagging way behind," Richardson said. "The message to people who are unemployed today is announcements are happening, recovery is starting and companies are starting to get more confidence and buying more inventory because they're seeing sales increase."

But when it comes to adding new jobs, expect slow going, said Richardson.

"The bad news is, it may be a five-year window before we see full employment, which is somewhere around that 5 percent, 6 percent number," he said. "We have a long way to go."

And in order for displaced workers to be ready for the new jobs that are coming into the city, Richardson said now is the time to make sure they will have the necessary skills.

"[Central Piedmont] community college can tell you which jobs they expect to grow in the community and what jobs will be good paying jobs," he said.

Richardson, however, doesn't expect that the lower-skilled manual labor jobs that the city lost will return during the economic recovery.

"When we lose those," he said, "they don't come back. They go to cheaper places around the world to do business."

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