SAN DIEGO -
Hundreds of people converged on a job fair Wednesday morning, but what most of those people probably did not know is that earlier this year, those jobs were about to leave the state.
People of all ages and backgrounds waited in line in the heat for a chance to work at the new 74,000-square-foot Jensen Meat Company facility in Otay Mesa.
Among them was Gerardo Almeraz, who has been job hunting for a year and a half.
"I have a little part-time job and it's not enough to support my family," he told 10News.
An estimated 1,000 jobseekers filled out pre-applications, but the job fair almost did not happen until San Diego leaders stepped up to the plate.
"We were able to – working with the South County EDC and Otay Chamber – to literally put together a package that retained those jobs in San Diego," said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Jensen was about to leave for greener financial pastures in Texas or Colorado, but leaders in San Diego used the Enterprise Zone program to offer the company state business income tax credits, hiring tax credits and sales or use credits.
Those are among other incentives designed to attract businesses to an economically-disadvantaged zone like the one in Otay Mesa.
"The Enterprise Zone helped them work the numbers and make it so that they could actually work to hire new employees," said Cindy Gompper-Graves, the CEO of the South County Economic Development Council.
Jensen Meat was founded 54 years ago and is based in Vista now. The company said it wanted to stay in San Diego.
"We are grateful that we are able to keep our current jobs while also adding some jobs to the economy," said Jose Valencia, the director of human resources for Jensen Meat.
The company will add 150 new jobs on top of the 100 Vista positions it will retain. By the end of 2014, the company hopes to add up to 350 more new jobs, depending on the economy.
Prospective employees could get a call as early as next week.
"It'd be truly a blessing to have a job and hopefully it will be here at Jensen Meat Company," said job seeker Mark Smith.
Jobs range from assembly floor jobs to administrative. Jensen expects to open the new plant in January.
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