- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Sherril Terry, a 30-year-old resident of Northwest, is willing to go anywhere in the Washington area to find a job.

Franklin D. Hearl Jr., director of personnel for Marriott International Hotel properties along the Dulles Corridor, is willing to go anywhere in the Washington area to find workers.

The two crossed paths yesterday at a job fair designed to match D.C. residents with employers near Washington Dulles International Airport, the destination for a new bus line running from L'Enfant Plaza in Southwest.

Ms. Terry joined about 700 other job seekers to converge on the lobby of the Reeves Center, at 14th and U streets NW, and fill out applications for eight employers located near the airport.

The bus service could alleviate unemployment in the city by sending employees more easily to Northern Virginia, said Susan Gilbert, chief of the Office of Employer Services within the District's Department of Employment Services.

The District's jobless rate was an estimated 5.7 percent in October, the highest in a region where unemployment in the suburbs was only 1.9 percent last month, according to Ms. Gilbert's department.

The District-Dulles bus line, with a $1.10 fare, begins its service Monday, running seven days a week hourly from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The trip will last about 55 minutes, with stops at the Rosslyn Metro station and the Herndon Monroe Transportation Center.

"The assumption so often with people here is that they have cars," Ms. Gilbert said.

That is not the case for Ricco Dicks, 24, who has been without a job for several months. His mother told him about the job fair, so he headed down yesterday to find "any type of job" that he could reach without a car. The Northeast resident has been a mail clerk and construction worker.

Ms. Terry said she will take the new bus "if I have to" in order to get a job. She has been out of work for two years since her daughter was born. Before that, she was a waitress.

"Since I'm older now, I need more stable [work]," she said.

The employers at the job fair, including Marriott; United Parcel Service; the Washington Area Airports Authority; and Argenbright Inc., a security firm, were recruiting primarily for service jobs, not the estimated 2,500 open information technology positions in Northern Virginia.

A separate fair for high-tech companies will be held early next year, Ms. Gilbert said.

Mr. Hearl of Marriott said his company did not recruit heavily in the District previously because of the lack of accessible transportation.

But at yesterday's event, he handed out about 250 applications, and four Marriott managers held 100 on-site interviews. The company has 30 job openings at its two hotels closest to the airport but would hire people for its other properties as well, Mr. Hearl said.

He said the new bus line will be particularly helpful because of its long hours, since hotel service employees work round-the-clock.

Ed Ross, human resources specialist with Argenbright, said his firm has drafted employees on "the outskirts" of the city, but the new bus service and the job fair have allowed his company, which provides security and other services at area airports, to extend recruiting.

Anita Hawkins, a 36-year-old Northwest resident, said she hunted for jobs in the immediate area but was unimpressed with the benefits they offered.

The former secretary just started her job search anew after her 2 and 1/2-year-old son entered nursery school.

She and a friend said traveling to Northern Virginia, especially Dulles, by bus before was too complicated.

"Now that there's transportation, I think that's a good thing," Ms. Hawkins said.

D.C. Council member David Catania, at-large Republican, said not only were bus routes complicated, but alternatives such as taxis or van services were expensive. He pushed through the new bus program.

The council has earmarked $750,000 to fund the route.

But Mr. Catania said the service is only a short-term solution.

"There's a disconnect between the types of jobs that are available and the skill level of the unemployed," he said, a problem that the council is trying to fix with training programs and other initiatives.

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