Daily Astorian

Students and job seekers packed the SAGE Center in Boardman Wednesday for one-stop networking with local employers in the agriculture and energy industries.

The first-of-its-kind job fair featured 28 exhibitors including farms, food processors and biofuel producers. Representatives from area colleges were also on hand to discuss their programs and scholarships for high school students looking to pursue careers in the field.

SAGE Center Manager Kalie Davis said the goal was to inform residents about the multitude of jobs available in their community while inspiring students to plan ahead for the future. An even 370 people attended the event.

Employers, meanwhile, reached out to workers looking for everything from full-time positions to summer internships.

"We want to make sure everybody looking for a job in Eastern Oregon knows there are jobs available in Eastern Oregon," Davis said. "People have been very receptive and excited to meet with employers."

Davis said the job fair will be held annually to connect companies recruiting new employees -- especially during the busy summer harvest season -- with people who otherwise wouldn't know where to send their résumés.

Morgan Hanson, health and safety coordinator with the Hermiston-based River Point Farms, said they came to the fair looking to advertise and fill positions. Hanson was impressed with the amount of traffic and interest.

"I love that it's local, too," she said. "You have a lot of local people looking for local jobs."

Across the room, Jimmye Turner with the Umatilla National Forest said he fielded plenty of questions from not only adults interested in full-time work, but students looking for a summer gig to help pay for college.

"Some were very interested in the different branches and aspects of the Forest Service," Turner said. "It's very encouraging."

Kirk Jacobson, human resources director of Beef Northwest, said he found at least five qualified candidates for positions in Boardman. The company runs a feedlot southwest of the city.

Other exhibitors such as ConAgra Foods Inc. and Tillamook Cheese are already expanding their operations at the Port of Morrow, which in turn keeps utilities like Portland General Electric and the Umatilla Electric Cooperative busy increasing capacity to meet demand.

Agriculture and energy has such a huge presence in Eastern Oregon, Davis said, which makes hosting the specialized job fair a unique and attractive event.

"I think (industries) are really excited about coming here," she said. "They just have a lot of great opportunities for people looking for work."

Contact George Plaven at gplaven@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4547.

This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.

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