The outlook for industrial employment continues to look bright for Portage County in 1998 according to employers and economic development officials. The Ravenna office of the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services has more than 100 job orders on hand, according to bureau manager Harry Carpenter. And, as 1997 came to a close, several local firms announced expansion plans that will mean additional jobs as well. "At this particular time it looks like there are going to be plenty of jobs," Carpenter said. In fact, employers are having trouble finding qualified employees for some jobs. "I have about 134 job orders on hand and 120 of them are available for people to go out on immediately," Carpenter said. "Some of them are technical computer related but a lot of them are just general labor. We have lots of jobs available." Carpenter said he expects the need for workers to continue strong in 1998. "The way it looks right now, it's going to be about the same way through the spring. The indications I'm getting from employers is they're still looking for people," Carpenter said. Expanding manufacturers are driving the need for employees, according to Debbie Victory of the Akron Regional Development Board. Victory is enthusiastic about Portage County's potential. "Portage County is booming. It's just going gangbusters. It's one of the most exciting areas in our region," she said. The whole county is participating in the economic growth, she said. "It's getting a good variety of companies. It's getting manufacturing that brings new dollars to the area and creates more wealth for the region," she said. Two area companies are seeking nearly $10 million in state industrial development revenue bonds. Singer Steel in Streetsboro and Amweld Building Products Inc. in Garrettsville recently received approval by the county commissioners so they could get in line for the 1998 allocation of state bonds. Amweld is seeking $5 million to add new equipment that will allow it to expand its product line, and add at least 10 new jobs. Amweld supplied the doors for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and also made the doors for the Portage County Jail. The company is looking to acquire a laser welder and equipment to make insulating foam-filled doors, and for automated forming of metal for doors and frames. Amweld has about 200 employees in Garrettsville now. It opened its local plant in 1986. Singer Steel Company in Streetsboro is seeking $3.56 million in bonds to add new equipment so it process heavier steel for its customers. The firm first moved to Streetsboro in 1994, building a 53,000 square-foot plant which now employs 46 people. The firm relocated from Cleveland where it was founded in 1923 and where it employed about two dozen workers. Eric Shaw, Singer Steel vice president, said the plant is being expanded by another 45,000 square feet. "What we're proposing is an almost doubling of the plant," bond counsel Paul Shapiro told county commissioners. "We envision, in stage one, adding 10 jobs. Hopefully we would be able to get to second shift and add another 10 people" in all areas of the operation, Shaw said. Singer Steel has been pleased with what it found in Portage. "We've found a very solid labor force from which to draw on," Shaw said. At Cleveland Punch & Die Company in Ravenna, a recent plant expansion was barely completed before the specialty tool maker established itself as the largest such firm in North America. Cleveland Punch & Die acquired the George F. Marchant Co. of Chicago, another leading firm, and announced plans to move equipment and some key personnel to Ravenna. The firm had just completed construction of a new manufacturing facility and expects to add as many as 50 new jobs in Ravenna in the next 18 months. Carpenter of the OBES said in addition to skilled jobs there are a number of no-experience-necessary assembly jobs paying about $6.50 an hour. "A lot of people don't want to start that low. I think there's going to be some pressure to raise wages," Carpenter said. OBES now posts its job listings on the internet, Carpenter noted. Ohio Job Net is available on the Internet at: http://www.state.oh.us/obes/. "It's pretty self-expanatory. They can go to any county, and they can register for any job through the Internet. OBES also has a kiosk at its office in Ravenna. The ARDB's Victory said she sees the area's economy continuing to rise. "I don't see any signs that it's letting up," Victory said.