Clayton County’s strongest industries are hiring

Clayton County, which is a stronghold of manufacturing and distribution, has an abundance of services considered essential, from grocery companies to those that manufacture cleaning products. County-based companies such as Clorox, Kroger and Fresh Express are continuing to operate, and have even ramped up production and expanded hiring to meet increasing demand for their products.

This also means increased activity for local employment agencies.

Business for the Southside branch of TRC Staffing Services, which includes Clayton County, is up about 60% over it’s other four locations in metro Atlanta. The number of jobs available has increased 20% a week, while other branches have experienced little or no growth due to the pandemic, according to Zahara Fallaw, TRC’s vice president of sales for the Atlanta commercial market.

They are filling jobs for companies that were deemed essential, said Fallaw. “Anything with building products, cleaning supplies, things like that, are the companies that are doing most of the hiring right now,” she added, “and that’s what’s kind of driving our business right now as well.”

While some sectors are continuing to do well, not all companies are sharing in the upsurge. Some building supply companies have increased employment but others have not, she added.

Much of the demand is for jobs that get products to store shelves. In the food industry, these are production workers, forklift operators and warehouse workers.

“We also have seen, on the more clerical or professional side, positions that are in the financial sector,” said Fallaw, including banks, mortgage and loan companies. Also, she added, “anything that has to do with call centers – any contact center support, help desk – are positions that are in need right now.”

Area grocery stores have been hard pressed to keep their shelves stocked with essential items. That demand has put increased pressure on distribution companies to keep the supply chain humming.

Fresh Express, a national provider of packaged salad products to grocery stores, operates one of its largest distribution centers in Morrow, Ga. The operation employs about 1,100 workers and is hiring for all shifts, said Erica Rocker-Wills, interim executive director of the Development Authority of Clayton County.

Clorox, which makes a variety of cleaning products, operates a production facility in Forest Park, Ga. Its wipes and home cleaning products have experienced a spike in demand as the pandemic has focused public attention on personal and home hygiene.

“They’re not food distribution, but they again have hot products that everybody in the world wants to buy right now,” said Rocker-Wills.

The Kroger Co., has been ramping up distribution operations on its 253-acre campus in the Gillem Logistics Center in Forest Park. The goal is to keep stores supplied in the face of increased demand by customers. The company’s 1.3-million-square-foot warehouse has expanded its operation and increased hiring.

Americold, the third-party provider that manages the facility, has nearly 900 employees and is in the process of filling about 85 new jobs, according to a company spokesperson. Two thirds of those roles are warehouse order selectors, who assemble and select cases and prepare pallets to be delivered to grocery stores. They are also seeking short-haul truck drivers to deliver orders.

“Kroger has expanded due to the high demand on store store level replenishment,” said David Welch, CEO of Robinson Weeks Partners, the master developer of Gillem Logistics Center.

The center, a 1,168-acre master-planned area, was created out of the former Fort Gillem U.S. Army post, which fell victim to the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure program. Since then, Gillem has become one of the nation’s most successful revitalization of former military properties.

So far, tenants in the Gillem Logistics Center have not indicated they have any plans for scaling back, according to Welch.

“Most of the businesses out there are considered essential because they’re transportation [and] logistics-oriented,” said Welch. “And if you drive out to Gillem, it’s a very active park.”

Other smaller companies located at Gillem have seen opportunities in the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Welch cited Andapak LLC, which creates custom packaging for shipping, as an example.

Kroger’s distribution activities have ramped up in response to increased demand at stores. They have also accelerated hiring to meet increased customer demand. The company’s Atlanta region has added 6,900 new employees.

“A lot of jobs have been created specifically in our grocery pickup,” said LaTasha Williams, Kroger’s manager of training and recruitment for the Atlanta region. “That’s the ecommerce sector, where you can order groceries online and pick those up, and we’ve partnered up with other companies where you can get those delivered.”

The company is hiring clerks as well as the overnight positions that keep the store shelves stocked. The company expects to add an additional 500 employees in the coming weeks, Williams said.

By   – Contributing Writer, Atlanta Business Chronicle

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