Job seekers and city officials said the long lines that snaked around City Hall and the Communiversity Friday morning during a job fair for Gestamp Solar Steel was a testament to the many Surprise residents in line hoping to gain employment in a still troubled economy.

Scores of people, either employed or underemployed and seeking a steady, high-paying job with a growing industry, dressed the part in the hopes of landing one of the 200 permanent jobs offered by Gestamp Solar Steel.

The company, which produces steel structures in the development of large-scale solar energy projects, will construct a 75,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Skyway Business Park, which is located northwest of the intersection of Peoria and Dysart roads.

With its move, the Spain-based company will create 50 permanent jobs — a total of 300 jobs at full build out — and 100 short-term construction jobs. A possible second phase could bring an additional 250 jobs to Surprise.

Many prospective job seekers said the opportunity to land a job in Surprise would be extremely beneficial so they could cut down their commutes, save gas and be able to spend more time with their families. It’s estimated that 84 percent of residents commute out of Surprise every day for work, while many others represent the 9.6 percent of Arizona residents currently unemployed, said Jeff Mihelich, Community and Economic Development director.

“The proximity issue is large,” he said. “You have to think many of these folks are traveling large distances by car or by plane to land some of these types of jobs not only in Arizona, but in other states across the country.”

Mihelich said people began lining up as early as 6:30 a.m. for the many jobs available through Gestamp, which plans to open its U.S. manufacturing plant and headquarters in Surprise this summer. By 9:30 a.m., the line was 600 people strong and growing.

“This is a chance for citizens to get their names in the bucket,” said Councilman Richard Alton, who was joined by Councilman Skip Hall in welcoming the job seekers.

Recruiters with Adecco Staffing, who hosted the event along with Goodwill of Arizona and the city of Surprise, ushered 50 people at a time into the Mayor’s Atrium at City Hall so the candidates could drop off their resumes, ask questions and find out more about Gestamp.

Manuela Orte-Crilly, who recently moved to Surprise from Colorado, has been unemployed since March 2010 and believes her background in manufacturing and international sales could be assets in landing a new job with the company. Orte-Crilly is also from Spain, where Gestamp is headquartered.

“Without jobs, we can’t expect the economy to recover,” she said.

Peoria resident Carroll McKenney is also hoping to gain employment with Gestamp as he currently only works part time with the Salvation Army.

“This is a new company, and it would be great to get in on the ground level and advance,” McKenney said.

While McKenney said the turnout was surprising in one sense, he understands many Surprise residents are in difficult situations and are looking to improve their livelihoods from a professional and financial standpoint whenever possible.

“People will flock to where the jobs are (located),” he said.

The many who wind up not receiving interviews or jobs with Gestamp may still have luck on their side. Mihelich said city officials will soon attempt to host job fairs on a semi-annual or quarterly basis, representing small and medium-sized businesses to large headquartering companies like Gestamp.

Gestamp will start hiring a new crop of employees in order for them to begin training in early May.

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or

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