Bay County EDA, CareerSource Gulf Coast Helps Plant Workers Find Jobs

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) — On Wednesday, the Bay County Economic Development Alliance held its monthly meeting. The first topic of discussion, how do we help the workers at the WestRock paper mill who will soon be unemployed?

“Obviously, our main focus is to work with displaced employees to help them find jobs so they can stay in Bay County,” said Becca Hardin, president of the Bay County EDA.

Hardin also said at the meeting that a company contacted her directly and said they had 200 openings.

CareerSource Gulf Coast Executive Director Kim Bodine works alongside EDA. Bodine told NewsChannel 7 that she also previously helped workers at the Port St. Joe paper mill when it closed.

“What we’ve found is that the first thing we have to do is try to understand what the workers’ needs are,” Bodine said. “So WestRock is working very closely with us, we have a meeting with management today”

As part of a quick response, Bodine said they have all sorts of programs available for those employed at the plant.

“We can refer them to financial management services, How to manage insurance when leaving a company. In addition to skills and training, we can provide them with scholarships where we pay for their books and tuition and possibly a training allowance,” Bodine said.

There is also on-the-job training where Bodine says they pay the company for the training.

“They didn’t expect this and neither did we, but we’re happy to share with them a lot of things we can do to help with the transition,” Bodine said.

Workers will fill out a survey, and Bodine said they will tailor the programs to suit their needs.

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