CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Procter & Gamble’s new plant in the Eastern Panhandle has drawn 1,100 applicants already — so many the company had to shut down its application portal for a few months last spring.

“We were getting so much traction that we couldn’t keep up with the demand,” said P&G spokesman Jeff LeRoy.

The application portal is back open, and Procter & Gamble has hired its first 18 plant technicians for the $500 million Tabler Station facility that will eventually produce products like Bounce fabric enhancers, shampoos and body wash.

pg“It’s more applicants than we expected at this point,” LeRoy said. “We were getting overwhelmed early on. We didn’t expect it to be so fast. We’re extremely pleased. That was one of the reasons that attracted us to this area of West Virginia.”

Eventually, Procter & Gamble expects to employ 700 full-time workers at the facility, which is about four miles south of Martinsburg.

“This moment is what it’s all about,” said Keith Burdette, executive director of the state Development Office. “All the work that goes into recruiting a company and bringing a project to fruition –  it’s all about the moment when we get to see hard working West Virginians begin careers that will support their families for generations to come. And P&G is one of the best companies to work for in the world. The impact it’s going to have on this state is huge, and it starts now.”

Of the first 18 employees, a dozen are already Eastern Panhandle residents, two are from other places in West Virginia, and the others are from Maryland and Virginia.

“Of the 18, a quarter are veterans, several are women. It’s a diverse group,” LeRoy said.

Those 18 have already started preparing for their work at P&G.

“They’re in a training program now,” LeRoy said. “We expect to continue to accept applications now through the plant opening next fall and beyond.”

LeRoy said P&G looks for standouts among 5 “buckets of skills”: mechanical skills or aptitude, electrical skills or aptitude, people with experience in manufacturing and production, making and packing operations and people with experience in equipment and machinery operations.

“We’re looking for not only people who have skills in certain areas, but who demonstrate a range of expertise,” LeRoy said. “We’re looking for people who show interest personally too. If somebody is really into mechanical applications, we find that they do that in their personal life as well.”

Jobseekers must begin with the P&G’s website portal, which starts with an online application and then moves on to an online skills assessment before potentially progressing to an in-person interview.

“It’s not ‘Do you know a friend?’ or ‘Your cousin works at P&G.’ You have to go through that portal,” LeRoy said.

LeRoy suggested that applicants who need to improve their skills should enroll at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, which has a partnership with P&G.

“We expect as we go forward to hire more people out of Blue Ridge,” LeRoy said. “If someone doesn’t have the skills or they’re concerned they might not, I would recommend them to Blue Ridge.”

This is just the second new plant Procter & Gamble has built since 1971. It’s expected to open in 2017.

“We’re just at the beginning of this journey,” LeRoy said.

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