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Plant helps idled find work

More than 300 workers laid off by Pasco Beverage in Dade City are being invited to a special job fair Friday at Career Central in Zephyrhills.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to noon.

The job fair is specific to all Pasco Beverage employees _ "current and past," Career Central spokesman Joe O'Donnell said Wednesday. "There may be more depending on what happens with this."

Pasco Beverage officials had announced that steady layoffs at its juice processing facilities were beginning in May. Previous layoffs were announced in December.

The Pasco Beverage plant _ formerly known as Lykes Pasco _ on Dade City's northern boundary had been the site of commercial juice operations since the 1930s and was once the county's largest private employer.

But as supply exceeded demand in the juice market in recent years, Pasco Beverage officials began selling off the company.

May signaled the sale of the company's frozen concentrate business, including customers and equipment, to international juice company Louis Dreyfus Citrus Inc. Nearly all aspects of Pasco Beverage are expected to be gone by the end of the year.

About 99 employees have been laid off so far, company spokesman Jim Frankowiak said Wednesday. "The head count is now at about 260," but by December, only a crew of 10 should remain.

"There's been a number of government and nongovernment entities out (at the plant) to see about recruitment," Frankowiak said, but he did not have numbers Wednesday on how many displaced workers have found new jobs.

The special career fair, O'Donnell said, is a joint venture by Career Central and Pasco Beverage. The Pasco Economic Development Council also is seeking recruiters to attend the fair.

The idea is to help east Pasco manufacturers turn Pasco Beverage's loss into their gain by matching them with skilled employees.

So far, about 13 companies have secured places at the event _ among them Zephyrhills Egg Co., Foil Tech Manufacturing, Dew-Well Industries, Skywatch Signs, Premium Waters, Silver Springs Citrus and Cherry Lake Tree Farm.

Career Central officials encouraged applicants to bring resumes to the fair and "dress for success," O'Donnell said. The event will be held at 6038 Gall Blvd., Zephyrhills. Call (813) 780-0111 for more information.