Shoppers, Job Applicants Flood New Publix at Gateway Center

Article excerpt

Subira Priester was among the more than 3,000 people who applied for about 140 jobs at the new Publix at Gateway Shopping Center.

Priester, 22, said she was already working at Kmart on Lem Turner Road, but the Publix grocery store that opened yesterday could provide a job closer to home with good wages and promotion opportunities.

"It's a better chance where I can grow within the company and make more money," she said.

Typically, Publix sees about 100 applicants when a new store opens. The much higher number for the Gateway site stems from its location -- in an area of the city with higher unemployment and job-seekers who lack transportation and want to work close to home, economic observers said.

"They want to work near where they live, and that's why it's so important to create job opportunities in the Northside, so people have the option to work close to where they live," said Mike Weinstein, executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission.

"It surprised us that we had such a huge response," said Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens. "It shows that this is a community that has been definitely underserved."

Priester, a cashier who lives at Moncrief Road and Myrtle Avenue, wouldn't say how much she's earning but said it's "way above" minimum wage.

Lynn Reaser, chief economist for Bank of America Asset Management Group, said there are few competing companies in the Gateway area that offer the same incentives as Publix: consistent employment, benefits and opportunities for advancement.

"Most of the economic action has been on the Southside," Reaser said. "There are not the kind of job opportunities in that market [Gateway area] we see in other areas."

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., called the $3 million store an investment in the Northside. …