- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2008

About 4,500 job seekers descended on National Harbor yesterday to attend a job fair at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, overwhelming Oxon Hill roads and the 300 employees assigned to the event.

The Gaylord, which claims to be the largest hotel construction project on the East Coast, plans to hire about 2,000 applicants for full-time, part-time and on-call positions before the resort’s grand opening April 25.

The resort expects more than 17,000 people to apply for jobs during the four-day hiring event that began yesterday.

“Our hiring efforts have picked up tremendously in the past few months,” said Sheldon Suga, senior vice president and general manager of the hotel and convention center. “This includes everything from midlevel managers to frontline operations roles.”

Prospective employees registered with hotel officials and then filled out applications on laptops throughout the main room of the convention center. The applicants then discussed job options with career counselors. Next came the interviews.

The event had the look of an “American Idol” audition combined with a revival meeting, attracting people from all walks of life to an enthusiastic reception. At one point, applicants danced in the aisles to Ike and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” during an orientation video.

While most applicants won’t know for days or weeks whether they got hired, some were hired on the spot and welcomed into a room full of cheering Gaylord employees armed with free food and soft drinks.

“I am very happy to get this job,” said Gloria Mills, a native of Ghana who lives in Stafford County, Va., and was hired as a hotel banquet cook. “The process was a little long, but I am just happy to be hired.”

“I have been working in this business for a long time, and they do this whole thing well,” said David Stevens, a Capitol Hill resident who used to work for Ritz-Carlton and will now work in housekeeping for Gaylord. “The benefits are really good.”

While smaller than the Washington Convention Center, the $800 million Gaylord boasts 2,000 rooms, making it the largest combined hotel and convention center on the Eastern Seaboard, Mr. Suga said. The Gaylord also boasts an impressive view of the Wilson Bridge and a water taxi to take people to Georgetown, Mount Vernon or Old Town Alexandria.

“The addition of the Gaylord Convention Center will really help expose the region as a convention destination,” said Mr. Suga, who was general manager of the Gaylord Hotel in Orlando, Fla. “We should be able to compete with Orlando and Las Vegas for major conventions.”

The new Gaylord will be the Nashville, Tenn., company’s fourth in the U.S., with other locations in Dallas, Orlando and Nashville.