Monday, September 23, 2013

More than 7,000 area residents attend Tanger Outlets job fair for National Harbor

Jeffrey MacMillan/For the Washington Post -  Sheliece Curtis turns in an application to Patrice McGee at the New Balance desk at the job fair for Tanger Outlets at National Harbor.
By Abha Bhattarai, Published: September 22 - The Washington Post

Robert Forsyth, 43, has been looking for work for two years, taking odd-jobs when he can.

“Catering, home improvement, lawn care — whatever comes up,” the Fort Washington resident said.

On Tuesday, Forsyth put on a suit and tie and, with 35 copies of his resume in tow, drove to a job fair for the upcoming Tanger Outlets at National Harbor.

He was looking for retail work, security positions, anything he could find among the 62 companies that were accepting applications for 900 jobs.

The outlet mall in National Harbor, scheduled to open Nov. 22, is bringing hundreds of retail jobs to a county that has long struggled with dwindling employment options.

“This is huge for the county,” said Gwen S. McCall, president and chief executive of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp. “This caliber of retail is something that we‘ve needed very badly.”

The unemployment rate in Prince George’s County — 7.1 percent as of July — has long outpaced that of the broader Washington metropolitan area, 5.8 percent in July, according to figures from the Labor Department.

About 7,000 area residents attended the two-day fair, according to Christi Wallace, general manager of the Tanger Outlets at National Harbor.

Many attendees said they already had a job, but were looking for additional work to help keep them afloat.

“The way the economy is going — minimum wage is $7-something — it’s not really enough to do anything,” said Daionte Randall, 19, who works at the District Heights T.G.I. Fridays. “If you have two jobs, you get more money.”

Demand for employment was so high that Elka Jimenez of Crabtree & Evelyn ran out of all 500 of her business cards and application forms within the first hour.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Jimenez, manager of the company’s Leesburg store. “Turnout has been unbelievable.”

Like many other employers, she was primarily looking for part-time workers — only one of the store’s 10 advertised positions offers full-time hours.

Applicants, however, said they were looking for more hours, job stability — and opportunities for advancement.

Chelisa Overby, who currently works two full-time jobs at Wendy’s and the Home Depot, applied for more than 15 openings on Tuesday.

“I’m looking for a third job, a job where I can work my way up to become a manager,” said Overby, 19.

Don Juan Monroe II was also looking for extra work. The 22-year-old said he has been working at McDonald’s for about a year.

To prepare for the job fair, Monroe practiced interview questions with his sister. It seemed to have paid off.

Two companies, Skechers and Polo Ralph Lauren, interviewed him on the spot and asked him to come back the next day for a second round.

“I’m hoping it works out,” Monroe said. “I’m looking for a better job than McDonald’s.”

Forsyth, the Fort Washington resident, also said he was hopeful.

“Maybe I’ve been too picky,” he said of his two-year job hunt. “Now all that pickiness is going out the window. I just want to get my foot in the door.”


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