Hispanic business expo's move to Gwinnett a big hit

DULUTH - Looking for a job hasn't been easy for Diana Carrillo.

The Lawrenceville resident has two children, one 4 years old and the other 9 months old, that have made the process a bit more difficult.

On Tuesday, Carrillo's job hunt was simplified slightly thanks to the proximity of this year's Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business and Career Expo, which took place at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth.

Carrillo was able to inquire about job possibilities at 100 booths, all with her children in tow.

It was an opportunity afforded to her because of the Hispanic chamber moving the expo from Turner Field in Atlanta to Gwinnett County.

"It's so close to home," said Carrillo, explaining why she attended the expo for the first time.

Job seekers like Carrillo are exactly why the group decided to move its career expo to Gwinnett. A 2004 report by the U.S. Census Bureau showed Gwinnett has the largest Hispanic population of the 28 metro Atlanta counties.

Jordi Vinas, the Hispanic chamber's director of officer operations, said the event could have gone to the Georgia International Convention Center or the Cobb Galleria Centre to accommodate its growth, but the group chose the Gwinnett Center instead.

"I think this was the best choice because of the market," Vinas said.

That market made a strong showing Tuesday, with the expo adding 20 more booths than it had in 2006 - a 25 percent increase.

Georgia Power has attended the event for years, and some of its employees believed the change in location would pay big dividends in the number of people attending.

"I think there's going to be a real good turnout because it's located close to Buford Highway and a very large Hispanic population," said Melissa Evans of Georgia Power.

Unlike Georgia Power, Waffle House had never had booth at the expo before. That changed this year because the Norcross-based company saw a better opportunity to find employees when the expo moved to Gwinnett.

"If you look at Gwinnett's population, it's a very diverse community and we want to represent our community in all our positions," said Wayne Davis, area people director for Waffle House.

Vinas said Tuesday he believes those kinds of responses from exhibiting businesses will keep the expo in Gwinnett for years to come.

"We love it here," Vinas said. "So far the sponsors and the exhibitors like it here better. If everything goes well, we're coming back again."