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Gray puts a different spin on jobs for jobless

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray's new job-creation effort is modeled after a program that created 13,000 jobs in Atlanta, but the initiatives are more similar in spirit than in execution.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, pitched "Hire One Atlanta" as a job-creation effort to employ "one additional person" at companies in the Georgia capital's metropolitan area.

Yet Mr. Gray, a Democrat, told a gathering of business leaders Thursday that he did not expect employers to create jobs or provide "charity" in this tough economy. Instead, he asked them only to fill vacancies with some of the District's 36,000 unemployed residents as part of his new "One City, One Hire" initiative.

The man who devised the plan in Atlanta says it's a significant departure.

"Replacement doesn't get us any further ahead," Ed Baker, the publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle and the man credited with conceiving the initiative, told The Washington Times

D.C. officials say they have put their "own spin" on the program, which had immediate success in the Atlanta area. The partnership in Atlanta calls on employers' good will and gave them kudos for new hires in the pages of Mr. Baker's publication. The District is offering government-backed incentives such as tax credits for each new hire and wage subsidies for training purposes.

Mr. Baker consulted with D.C. officials and praised their efforts, noting the addition of business incentives has "got to be good."

The D.C. effort is also a re-branding of sorts for the Department of Employment Services, which is touting renewed efforts to match each unemployed resident's skills with one of 51,000 available jobs in the District.

"We're stepping up to the plate," agency Director Lisa Mallory said at the program's introduction on Sept. 8. "We're being a facilitator, whatever we can do to connect you to the employees."

Mr. Gray has made job creation one of his top priorities in the face of a double-digit unemployment rate that reaches 17 percent in Ward 7 and 25 percent in Ward 8. Figures released Friday show that the seasonally adjusted citywide unemployment rate increased to 11.1 percent last month.

In rolling out the "One City, One Hire" program, D.C. officials have pointed to Atlanta's success while highlighting the differences between their efforts in the same breath.

Ms. Mallory said an agency employee presented the pilot program at a staff meeting and she passed it along to the mayor "because we saw what happened in Atlanta, and thought this would be a great idea."

Among the several differences is that the Atlanta program sought to create 150,000 new jobs in its metropolitan area, not just within city limits, according to Mr. Reed's office. The District's program focuses on employers throughout the metropolitan region, but it seeks to employ only residents who live within D.C. borders.

"They're hiring locally, and I would, too," Mr. Baker said. "We can't solve the world's ills, but we can at least take care of those within driving distance.

In addition, many of the jobs in the D.C. region are in the federal government, compared to Greater Atlanta.

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