More than 300 people turned out to a job fair this week to get a temporary job when the Senior PGA tour comes to Benton Harbor next month.
Herb Caldwell is Vice President of the Consortium for Community Development. It’s a non-profit group focused on solving chronic poverty in northern Berrien County.
“We’re really surprised and really happy with the excitement and the eagerness of the folks in our area who want to get out an support the Senior PGA golf tournament,” Caldwell said. The job fair was Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.
PGA is a first for Benton Harbor
The Senior PGA tour will be at the new Harbor Shores golf course.
There’s been controversy over the golf course for two reasons; it was partially built on sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and elected city leaders agreed to lease portions of the beachfront park while the city was facing severe financial problems. The course has prompted a number of lawsuits, but most have been settled in favor of the golf course.
Benton Harbor's city government is now run by an emergency manager. The elected, but powerless, city commission voted earlier this month to withdraw its support of the Senior PGA coming to their city.
Temporary job, permanent jobs, and hopefully future jobs
Part of Harbor Shores' selling point was that the course would create jobs. A second job fair for hospitality positions is set for later this month. None of these 300 jobs will last more than four weeks. They pay between minimum wage and $12 an hour with chances to make tips in some cases.
“But for the people who’ve been out of work for quite a while I think that they really, they’re really gracious and they’re looking forward to the opportunity,” Caldwell said. The Consortium hopes the temporary work will lead to permanent employment in an economically depressed area.
There are a little more than 100 people working on a more permanent basis at Harbor Shores. That does not include new openings at the course’s clubhouse that just opened.
“It’s not just about these jobs right now,” Harbor Shores President Jeff Noel said. “It’s about showcasing our community and our talented workforce in the hopes of attracting new development, new jobs to the area.”
Thousands of volunteers are also beginning training this weekend.
“We’re going to put on a good show for them. We’re going to show our hospitality. We’re going to show our warmth. We’re going to share our beautiful natural resources and our people…we will be a great resort community and really showcase that we are a tourist destination,” Caldwell said.