PITTSFIELD — After working at United Technologies Fire and Security for two years, John Faloon of Hartland was excited about receiving a promotion to production coordinator.
“Then I found out they were shutting down the plant,” Faloon said. “I had just got hired to a bigger position.”
Faloon, 23, was one of several hundred central Maine residents at Pittsfield’s seventh annual job fair, held in Warsaw Middle School Wednesday afternoon. The job fair came just months after United Technologies, Pittsfield’s second-largest employer, announced that it will close its plant in Maine by spring 2015.
UTC provides technology products and services to the global building and aerospace industries, specializing in fire security. The Pittsfield plant employs about 300 people, and layoffs are expected to begin this fall.
Faloon was one of several UTC employees at the job fair Wednesday afternoon, talking with prospective employers, providing information to hiring agencies and asking questions to representatives of the roughly 50 organizations that were represented.
Dressed in a red shirt and black tie with black dress pants, Faloon hoped to make a good impression with as many businesses as he could. With a folder of resumes already printed out, Faloon hoped to transition to a new job before he finding himself counting down the days to unemployment.
“I’d rather start looking for a job now than to find out, â€˜Hey, you have this many days left,'” Faloon said.
About 300 open positions were available through the organizations attending the event, including at Pittsfield-based Cianbro, Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan and the Maine Army National Guard, according to Town Manager Kathryn Ruth.
In its seventh year, the regional job fair was born out of residents’ desire for more career training, professional and educational opportunities, according to Ruth. She expected more than 300 residents from surrounding central Maine communities to attend the three-hour job fair Wednesday, and said the roughly 50 organizations represented made it the largest in its seven years.
Town officials predicted the job fair would be well attended with the recent announcement of UTC plant closing. Somerset County, meanwhile, continues to have an unemployment rate higher than the state average — 9.1 percent in March, compared to a statewide rate of 5.9 percent.
United Technologies, based in Farmington, Conn., announced on March 18 that the Pittsfield plant will close and its more than 300 jobs will be shipped to three of the company’s other plants. About 100 positions will be open to employees willing to transfer to the company’s plant in Lincolnton, N.C. United Technologies also has plants in Mexico and China.
After the announcement, business owners and residents pondered the longterm affect the closure will have on the town, with one local restaurateur estimating he’d lose about 6 percent of his business from the closing.
United Technologies spokeswoman Ashley Barrie said in an email that layoffs will begin in the fall and will continue through spring 2015. She said the company is working closely with employees who want to transfer and has made several offers.
The Pittsfield manufacturing plant, which is on the shore of the Sebasticook River, is the town’s second largest employer, according to the town’s website. The plant was formerly General Electric Security until United Technologies bought it in 2010. The largest employer, Cianbro, employs about 360 people in Pittsfield.
When United Technologies bought the plant in 2010, a spokesman for the company declined to comment on potential effects the purchase had on the Pittsfield plant, which had laid off 110 workers a year earlier when it was owned by GE Security. General Electric Co. bought the plant in 2005, when it bought SPX Corp., owner of Edwards Systems Technology, for nearly $1.4 billion. The Pittsfield plant first opened in 1956.
Ruth said the job fair was originally organized after officials heard from a lot of people who “didn’t just want to call up a company cold or send in an application. They really wanted to talk to people. We thought why couldn’t we get everyone together for that purpose, for networking.”
That was the reason 48-year-old Jeffrey Carmichael attended the event. An employee of United Technologies for more than 20 years, Carmichael admitted he had not been to a job fair before.
“I came out of college and started working here before it was UTC,” he said. “I wanted to see what it was like and get some exposure and experience talking with businesses. It’s also a good place to meet people for contacts.”
Carmichael, who has a degree from the University of Maine in electrical engineering, is hoping to stay in the Pittsfield area.
Not so for UTC coworker Darlene Chamberlain.
Chamberlain, 41, a machine operator at United Technologies, is contemplating a move to southern Maine, where she said there are more job opportunities. Chamberlain was mainly attending the job fair for a question-and-answer session with the Maine CareerCenter about the upcoming United Technologies layoffs.
“I’m looking to hear what they have to say about our benefits and other severance information,” Chamberlain said. “We really haven’t gotten a lot of information yet.”
Before the Maine CareerCenter session, Chamberlain visited several organization booths, including that of Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. With the impending layoffs, Chamberlain said she is keeping her options open.
“I talked to the people at KVCC and have thought about studying applied electronics, if I don’t find another job before then,” she said.
Kathe Bolster, a consultant for Maine CareerCenter, is hoping as many United Technologies employees take advantage of the resources at the job fair as possible.
“We hope we can help them transition and realize they do have valuable skills and with a little on-the-job training, they’re going to survive,” Bolster said. “I think we have a good mix of businesses here that represent the community.”