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Published November 25 2011

Black Friday Career Fair draws job-seekers

FARGO – While many residents flocked to stores Friday for short-lived holiday deals, others sought opportunities that offered more long-term stability.

At least a few dozen job-seekers attended the Black Friday Career Fair to scout out potential employment prospects with local engineering and manufacturing companies.

The fair was part of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp.’s mission to reverse the metro area’s “brain drain” and attract former residents back to their Red River Valley roots.

Regional engineering programs, such as North Dakota State University’s, cultivate students’ skills, “but we know they often leave the area for other opportunities,” said Tifanie Gelinske, workforce development director at the EDC.

“Maybe you just have that longing to try something else,” she said, “but then, as a person gets experience, they might want to move back home.”

That nostalgia for family and home, and the optimism of a booming economy, attracted some of the fair’s attendees on Friday.

Mark Rodenbiker, a 2004 alumnus from North Dakota State University, said he’s been without an engineering job since 2008 when he was laid off as the national recession hit.

In the interim, Rodenbiker moved back to his hometown of Rock Lake and helped his parents with their greenhouse.

He saw the Black Friday Career Fair as a way to return to his chosen career, and the prospect of living in Fargo is more appealing than it once was, he said.

“When I graduated, it was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to stay in Fargo,’ ” Rodenbiker said. “But now, it seems like there’s things happening all the time. It’s definitely growing and changing.”

The fair also drew out-of-town residents looking to relocate, like Marquette, Mich., native Tom Centko.

“It was nice to see the different companies that are available in the area and make some network connections,” said Centko, who was visiting his brother in Fargo for the Thanksgiving holiday. Representatives with Ulteig, Phoenix International, Appareo Systems, Bobcat and American Crystal Sugar Co. participated in the fair to scout out additional workforce.

“Maybe they come home for the holidays, find a couple hours between Black Friday shopping and sneak in here – and it’s shopping for an opportunity to come back home,” said David Batcheller, Appareo’s chief operating officer.

Job Service North Dakota says the Fargo-Moorhead metro region has about 3,000 jobs available in various fields, including about 140 openings for engineers or architects.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541