01/27/10 — Local Veterans Fair offers job links and information

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Local Veterans Fair offers job links and information

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 27, 2010 1:46 PM

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Courtney Locus, left, of the N.C. Military Business Center, explains the center's services to veteran Edwin Allen Gentry of Goldsboro. Gentry was one of the close to 100 people who attended a Veterans Job Fair Tuesday.

Close to 100 veterans and active-duty military took advantage of a Tuesday Veterans Fair at Wayne Community College to learn about business, educational and benefits opportunities.

"I think that it is real good," said veteran Edwin Allen Jones as he left the N.C. Military Business Center booth. "Any veterans who are interested, it would be a help to them if they knew about these different job fairs."

Gentry, a Jones County native, has lived in the Goldsboro area about three years and is a student in the WCC criminal justice program.

"I tell people I am probably too old to be a police officer or probation officer, but I would like to be a magistrate," he said. "I have been out of the military for a number of years. I was looking at these different booths and seeing what might be available for me when I leave school."

The fair was one in a series of Veteran Fairs being sponsored by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

"The senator started last year a series of events he holds throughout the state focused on everything veterans," said Chris Wall, Burr's director for economic development. "What we do, we bring in a lot of the folks who have anything to do with veteran home loans, veteran business opportunities, service-connected disabilities, veterans' services in general.

"We bring them all in one place so that veterans can come and talk to folks and if they were having trouble getting with their disabilities claims or if they wanted to find out what options were available for them for home loans, business opportunities that they could come to one place and talk to all of them at the same time. That is what we have here this morning."

Wall said he was pleased with the turnout of nearly 100.

"That is a pretty good crowd," he said.

Tuesday's fair was the fourth in the state and the first in Wayne County.

Burr is in Washington working during the week, so he is unable to attend the fairs, Wall said.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs is here," he said. "They are a big draw always. A lot of times we like to bring in local businesses that are either veteran-owned businesses that can offer advice to businesses or looking to hire veterans."

Wall noted the active duty military were mostly younger.

"I think they are looking to see what they will need to know when they get out of the service," he said. "I think they are especially interested in what business opportunities that are for veterans."

Pam Pogue of the North Carolina Military Business Center office at WCC said she was surprised by the turnout.

"I think that it has been excellent," she said. "Basically what we try to do is match federal business opportunities, contracting opportunities, with North Carolina businesses. Rather than those federal procurement dollars going out of state, we try to keep it here with North Carolina businesses to help the quality of life in North Carolina and economic development. We also try to keep military members who are getting out of the military in North Carolina with employment here, help their spouses with employment here because it is a trained group of people so why not keep them with North Carolina businesses?"

The North Carolina Military Business Center is a component of the state's community college system. Ms. Pogue's office at WCC is one of 12 in the state.

The center also has military employment opportunities, said Courtney Locus, who is headquartered in Fayetteville.

One is the "I Hire Military" program started by Gov. Beverly Perdue in November in Wayne, Carteret, Craven and Onslow counties, she said.

"It is geared toward making sure transitioning service members, their spouses and dependents are able to receive employment opportunities when they do decide to exit the military or if they have already exited," she said. "Companies sign a free online compact pledging to hire military whenever possible and practical.

"Then people can look at the Web site ihiremilitary.org and view an online directory by county, and then they can look at the businesses and be able to contact them about business opportunities."