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Feb. 25--Even with more than 12 years of oil field experience and oil and gas production increasing, Alfred Rodriquez of Brownwood still is struggling to land a job.
The 33-year-old father of three was just one of nearly 60 people, mostly former employees of Ringo Drilling in Tye, attending an impromptu job fair organized by Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas on Monday.
"I'm struggling, man," Rodriquez said while filling out an application. "This line of work, it just fluctuates."
Ringo Drilling corporate officials in Dallas remained mum Monday about their decision to close operations in Tye and lay off 200 employees.
Rodriquez had high hopes when he took a job as a derrick hand at Ringo in January, a move he now regrets.
"I had a steady job working for Kohler. I was there for seven months when this came along," he said. "I thought about it and took the opportunity because they (Ringo managers) told me they had plenty of work. It was just one of those things: I took a chance because I was trying to make more money."
About 15 area employers from energy services companies to criminal justice showed up at the event. At least one of the employers, Workforce Solutions officials said, was looking to fill 20 positions.
Kirk Martin, 47, of Abilene was looking through a plastic bag full of brochures as he stepped out of the room where the hiring event was taking place. He was a floor hand for Ringo for nearly two years and now finds himself looking for a job.
"We were off the rig and fixing to start another one when they told us they shut the doors," Martin said, adding he tries to stay optimistic that he will soon find employment.
Workers picked up their last paychecks Feb. 18 but weren't allowed into Ringo's yard area, according to Connie Selden, executive director of Tye Industrial Development Corp., an economic development group.
Ringo Drilling was the largest commercial-property owner in Tye. Early last week, records from the Taylor County Appraisal District indicated the company owed nearly $190,000 in property taxes, which were due Feb. 1.
Chief Appraiser Gary Earnest on Monday said Ringo paid all of its taxes Friday.
Former Ringo floor hand Donnis Nicholson said he and several others were actually out of work since Feb. 2, waiting for a rig to be set up at a location.
"I really hope I find a job here," Nicholson said.
Rodriquez said overall oil and gas activity has increased in the area, but there have been slowdowns when people lost their jobs.
"I have been laid off back in 2009 when the oil field slowed down," Rodriquez said, referring to a different company. "I was going to pursue a criminal justice career, but it (oil field) picked back up again so I went back to the oil field only to get laid off again."
Robert Puls, business development consultant for Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas, told attendees of programs available to them, including unemployment insurance.
"Our goal is to get you guys working again as soon as possible," Puls said.
Rodriquez is hedging his bets on finding a job. He is planning on getting a commercial driver's license through Ranger College to compliment his oil field experience.
"A CDL will open up a lot of opportunities for a lot more jobs," he said.
And there is optimism in the eyes and attitude of 20-year-old Stetson Pettijohn, a former Ringo floor hand who is contemplating pursuing a career in criminal justice.
"The worst thing that can happen is I don't find a job today," Pettijohn said. "But I'll get one tomorrow."
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