ATLANTA (AP) -- A job fair Thursday in Atlanta designed for military veterans attracted thousands of job-seekers, part of a wave of 80,000 Georgia veterans who are expected to enter the state's workforce by 2016.
The gathering at the Georgia World Congress Center came the same day that Gov. Nathan Deal announced several statewide initiatives geared toward helping the state's veterans.
They include Troops to Trucks, a program intended to help veterans find employment in the transportation industry. The pilot program will focus on accelerating the process to earn a Commercial Driver's License, or CDL, for personnel at Fort Benning, Deal said in a statement.
In Atlanta, officials were predicting that around 5,000 job seekers would visit the Georgia Jobs For Veterans Career Expo by the time it ended in the afternoon. It was organized by the Georgia Department of Labor and the Governor's Office of Workforce Development.
"These are individuals who understand discipline, they have pride, they make top-notch employees, there's no doubt about that," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in an interview.
Employers can be eligible for a tax credit ranging from $2,400 to $9,600 per veteran hired, Butler said.
An estimated 80,000 military members are expected to return to civilian life -- and jobs -- in Georgia within the next four years, Butler said.
The job fair was designed with them in mind, as was a similar event in west Georgia last month.
An Oct. 9 job fair in LaGrange attracted more than 800 people, officials said. The Columbus metro area, which includes the Army's Fort Benning, has lost 1,600 jobs during the past year, according to figures released last month by the state labor department.
Both job fairs were also open to civilians such as Clifton Earl Cheeks Jr., who recently moved to the Atlanta area from Washington, D.C.
Cheeks, 27, said he was recently laid off as a truck driver for a company based in Forest Park, but had some good prospects after submitting his resume at Thursday's fair.
Cheeks said he's seeking a job related to security or law enforcement. He said he got encouraging words after giving his resume to the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, which is seeking juvenile corrections officers.
"Ensuring that these heroes find meaningful employment as they return home is one of Georgia's top priorities," Deal said.
Among them: the State Workforce Investment Board has voted to grant top priority of service in Georgia's workforce system to veterans and their spouses, Deal said.
Also, state officials announced a website, www.operationworkforce.com, which is described as being a one-stop place for veterans to find resources and services in Georgia. The site will include job listings from companies across the state seeking to fill positions with veterans, Deal said.