A job fair at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center March 7 attracted more than 400 job seekers, far exceeding expectations of organizers.

Belfast Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge told the City Council March 7 that 380 attendees registered and actual attendance was closer to 450.

"If we had gotten 100 people through the door, I think we would have been satisfied," he said. "We probably passed that goal by 10:05 (a.m.)."

Kittredge said 75 percent of attendees were from Waldo and Knox counties. Other registrants signed in from Bangor, Bucksport, Castine, Edgecomb, Greenbush, Tenants Harbor, Orono, Waterville and Pittsfield, he said.

More than 45 employers were scheduled to be on hand, according to a notice for the event. City Councilor Mike Hurley made note of the wide range of posts employers were seeking to fill, including engineering jobs at the new biomass plant being built in Searsmont, and skilled positions at Waldo County General Hospital and Front Street Shipyard.

"They needed those employees, and that the employees showing up in the degree they did, to me indicated people are really looking for new opportunities," he said.

Councilor Eric Sanders worked at the job fair with his employer Bank of America and reported running out of application materials and having people waiting in line for interviews that were being conducted on site.

"We were overwhelmed," he said. "It was chaos, in a great way. There was nothing to compare it to; it was 10 times better than any job fair I've ever been to."

Sanders said he was struck by the number of attendees who had recently moved to the area, drawn by jobs that were once mostly in Southern Maine.

Hurley characterized the city's contribution of $500 for the event as part of a larger story of economic development investments over the last 30 years that have made Belfast the envy of other municipalities around the state.

"Many towns … they want to get away with this without spending a nickel," he said. "They think you can do these things without ever experiencing any personal pain. In a way, it's almost a welfare mentality. They want it for nothing. Belfast people have paid for this, through taxes."

Kittredge said organizers are planning to meet March 9 to discuss future job fairs, which could be yearly or twice a year in the future.