[caption id="attachment_37868" align="alignright" width="324" caption="North Bay Networking Group founder Greg Jones, Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo and Networking Group partner Marc Carroll at the first official networking event. -- On Site Photography"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA – Greg Jones, founder of the new North Bay Networking Group, got a pleasant surprise at the group's first event last week. It was packed.

“We expected about 40 attendees,” said the former State Farm recruitment executive, who wants to help his laid-off colleagues and other jobseekers connect with employers. “We got 150 people, including recruiters from a number of local companies. It was a very positive event, resulting in jobs for several and an uplift in spirits for us all.”

When State Farm decided to move its Rohnert Park operation to Bakersfield, about 100 workers decided to go along. The doors closed July 29, leaving 350 skilled people without jobs.

Mr. Jones and 10 other workers who elected to remain in Sonoma County decided “not to wait around for something to happen, but to get creative and make it happen,” he said.

The result is a resource-packed website for job seekers in the North Bay and lots of interest from local staffing groups, North Bay businesses, schools and public officials. Sonoma County supervisor Efren Carrillo spoke at the inaugural meeting.

Michael Nelson of Techeffex, whose wife, Deborah, was laid off by State Farm, designed the website, which lists government jobs agencies, staffing agencies and job boards as well as career exploration organizations, salary research websites and comprehensive career development websites.

“It was a hurry-up job to have it done in time for the first event, but I was glad to offer it,” said Mr. Nelson. “It’s only a few pages now, but as the Networking Group grows in what it has to offer the website will grow along with it.”

The group also has a special site on LinkedIn, the popular business social networking site.

“Collectively we former State Farm employees have a tremendous amount of talent and skills to add to the North Bay business community,” said Mr. Jones.

“State Farm spent $3,000 to $4,000 per person on education and training. We have leadership skills, social networking savvy, sales expertise and a real understanding of good business practices.”

As an example of employee know-how he described Kristina Lamb, who was recently one of two final candidates for a position with a company in Rohnert Park. She didn’t get the job but so impressed the human resources department with her professionalism during the interview process that a position was created for her.

“Kristina is a great example of the principles of Bob Berg, the writer of The Go-Giver,” said Mr. Jones. He’ll be interviewing Mr. Berg on Aug. 11 exclusively for the Networking Group’s website.

He also envisions a series of workshops focused on how to brand and market yourself in terms of what you can offer others.

Another networking event and conference is planned for Sept. 6. It’ll take place at Legends at the Bennett Valley golf course from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

Mr. Jones stressed that although the primary focus of the Networking Group was helping former State Farm employees its services and resources are available to all job seekers and employers in the North Bay and beyond.

“Our purpose is to add to the great network that’s already in place and bring fresh energy and ideas to the North Bay,” he said.

“And the support we’re getting from the community just makes us realize why we want to stay in this area. There’s no place like it.”

For more information visit www.northbaynetworkinggroup.com.