By Amelia Pak-Harvey
DEVENS -- Hopes ran high throughout the Devens Common Center last Friday, as 1,200 people passed through for the Nashoba Valley Job Fair.
The second annual fair, organized in part by the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, featured 58 employers with more than 800 job openings.
Standing amid the buzz of hundreds of job-seekers, Chamber CEO Melissa Fetterhoff said the fair had a great attendance.
"There's a huge need for it obviously in the area," she said. "Especially with all of the job-seekers that we have signed up in advance."
Companies from Devens to Southern New Hampshire filled the conference center in what could be a sign of an uptick in the economy.
"We're experiencing another growth year," said Karen Hartwell, a human-resources manager for Injectronics. "We have new products that we're launching for our medical-device customers, so we're adding positions in our quality area and assembly technical arenas to support our growth."
The event was also a campaign stop for Republican Lt. Gov. candidate Karyn Polito, who is nearly two months into her campaign.
Although she was overwhelmed at the fair's turnout, Polito said Massachusetts could be doing better on its unemployment rate and cost of business, which she said ranks 48th out of 50th in the country.
"On those measures we can do better for creating more opportunities for everyone at all levels," she said. "Particularly the middle-class level, where we want to see people climb that level to success."
Poilto said the state needs to look at the cost of doing business and create an environment that attracts other industries to Massachusetts.
"We're in competition with other states and other countries," she said. "Massachusetts -- being a great state in many ways -- can be much better in terms of providing jobs and opportunities for people."
State Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, who sponsored the event with the Chamber and North Central Career Centers, said the fair was successful in attracting both job-seekers and employers. Harrington sponsored both years with the help of her legal assistant, Sean Rourke, who received a citation for his help.
"I'm happy because what it shows me is they're willing to get out there and really meet people that might be a hire that they wouldn't have seen otherwise," she said. "It's a good sign that they have jobs to fill."
Although her district lacks commercial areas, Harrington said that Devens brings a lot of job opportunities.
"I would have to say Devens is going to hopefully be the victorious one in bringing more jobs to the area," she said.
The mood among job-seekers on the conference floor was positive.
"I've talked to a couple of prospective companies and it looks good, so I've got my feelers out there and I feel like it's going to be a good day," said Jody Davin, a Shirley resident looking for an accounting position.
Davin said she thinks the economy is slowly improving.
"I think they should do this more often because I think a lot of times people don't know that the jobs are there," she said.
Laurian Goode, of Leominster, came out to look for administrative work. She had good responses at the booths she visited, and said the economy might be taking a turn for the better.
"I think that especially with such a big turnout that definitely there's something on the way," she said. "Something is turning around."
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