A countywide campaign to add 1,000 jobs in six months has met its goal early.

The Stanislaus County Alliance Worknet’s StanTogether project celebrated its success Thursday afternoon with a party at Modesto Centre Plaza for participating employers.

More than 200 businesses, large and small, have come together to hire 1,025 employees since the campaign’s launch at the beginning of February. The campaign ends July 31.

The area has been wracked with high unemployment during the recession. In April, unemployment was 16.4 percent with more than 38,200 jobless workers in the county. Numbers for May will be released today by the state.

Bill Bassitt, executive director of the Stanislaus Economic Development & Workforce Alliance, said despite the area’s continuing troubles, the campaign has helped create desperately needed jobs.

“In spite of everything else, it’s time to celebrate,” he said. “We’ve even exceeded our goal. But we’re not done.”

The celebration was tempered by news Thursday that the CVS Pharmacy distribution center in Patterson will lay off about 100 workers.

“We know our economy still has rough spots ahead. But we’re moving forward even though there are bumps along the way,” said Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O’Brien. “We’ve got 1,000 people who will now have paychecks which they’ll turn around and spend in our county.”

The employers ranged from large, 600-person companies to small businesses with only a few dozen workers.

Among the latter were representatives from Alpha Inc., a poultry equipment supply company in Turlock. The small operation hired four people as part of the campaign, bringing its staff to 20.

“This was a way to add more jobs to the county when it needed them,” said Lydia Herd of Alpha. “We wanted to get more involved in the community.”

Herd said the company rarely hires, adding only about one person every other year.

Oakdale-based Sconza Candy added five jobs to its 145-employee roster.

The company also has worked with the alliance to screen prospective applicants and narrow the field to the most qualified. Otherwise, Operations Assistant Angie Hill said Sconza could get flooded with 75 to 100 applications for a job in one day.

Other businesses including Modesto Junk Co. took advantage of the alliance’s existing wages reimbursement incentive to train when hiring for the campaign.

Assistant Manager Keith Highiet said the company hired three workers and was reimbursed for 50 percent of their training salary.

“It was really the final thing that pushed us into hiring,” he said. “We were thinking about maybe adding on, but when we heard there was an incentive we thought, ‘Let’s go ahead.’ ”

One of those who benefited from the campaign was DinYero Johnson, who was hired in May by Modesto IT company Data Path Inc.

The 28-year-old had to abruptly move from Washington state to the Northern San Joaquin Valley with his wife to be near a sick family member in April. He left his job there not knowing what he would find.

“It didn’t seem like there would be a lot of opportunities out here, but we had to come,” he said. “So I feel very fortunate knowing the state of unemployment here that they were hiring.”

For more on StanTogether visit www.stantogether.com.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at [email protected] or (209) 578-2284.

This story originally appeared in The Modesto Bee on Thursday, June 14, 2012 : www.modbee.com