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Rep. Drew Ferguson encourages economic recovery at LaGrange job fair

Rep. Drew Ferguson recalls the impact the closing of the area’s textile mills had on the community during his time as West Point’s mayor. That pressure to create new, lasting jobs in the community still resonates with Georgia’s third congressional district representative as the area, like the rest of the county, continues to face staffing shortages in various fields.

“I can remember thinking in terms of economic development [that] if we could plan 100 jobs here, or 50 jobs there…what an impact that would have on our community,” Ferguson said on Wednesday to over 50 employers at the Callaway Conference Center at West Georgia Technical College’s job fair, all of whom were seeking new employees to fill the gaps in their job markets.

Across the 50 companies, including Coweta County Department of Corrections, FedEx and Great Wolf Lodge, employers had over 4,500 open positions to fill.

Ferguson described the staffing shortage as a losing fight against an uphill battle, noting that extended federal unemployment benefits act as the competition employers continue to face.

“For a business to be successful, you have to have people come into work every single day,” Ferguson said.

“Unfortunately, it’s no longer can [people] make more staying at home…it’s they can make enough by not coming to work. To me, that’s wrong, because I think if you remove the deity of work from people’s lives, it’s something that doesn’t sit morally right.”

Employers like ADVICS Manufacturing Georgia in LaGrange, who manufacture brake pads for car industries, are seeking to fill over 20 positions and offer their potential employees training to get them ready for the job.

Jon Poe, Environmental, Health and Safety Specialist for ADVICS Manufacturing Georgia, said that some of the issues his company is experiencing include employees leaving after training.

“It’s kind of frustrating, but we have to keep building up our team members and reiterate that we make safety components and just anyone won’t do,” Poe said. “We want to make the best product that we physically can because we affect lives and our team members’ performance affects lives. That’s why we’re looking for that [specific] team member.”

With the pandemic still the main contributing factor preventing workers from returning to the workforce, Ferguson is encouraging vaccinations.

“Get the vaccine, they’re safe and they’re effective,” he said.

“We know there is more research that’s gone into this vaccine than any other vaccine…that’s ever been brought to market. Ignore the mixed messages and do the right thing. Protect yourself, your family, and everybody else in the community. Get the vaccine and get back to work because we need you.”