District of Columbia officials joined the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and metro area business leaders to announce the creation of a voluntary hiring initiative to facilitate the employment of city residents by area employers.
The “One City-One Hire,” initiative is designed to provide wage subsidies, tax-incentives, and job training by the city government to businesses in the D.C. area who add a District resident to their personnel rosters.
“While this is not a panacea, hopefully this will begin to connect the dots for lots of people,” said Mayor Vincent Gray (D), at a press conference announcing the plan.
According to the District’s Department of Employment Services, the hiring initiative was patterned after a similar one in Atlanta, Georgia. The Mayor’s office reports that almost 13,000 Atlanta residents were hired during the first six months of the program’s inception there. The goal of ‘One City-One Hire” is to employ 10,000 D.C. residents in one year.
Barbara Lang, CEO and President of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said that the initiative will help to reverse the trend of many jobs in the city being filled by employees who do not live in the District.
“On any given day in this city, there are 700,000 jobs in D.C. We are in the enviable position of having far more jobs in our great city than we have residents. Yet sadly, only one third of those jobs are filled by District residents. Those numbers and the high over ten percent unemployment in the District, is our call to action,” Lang told reporters.
Lisa Mallory, Director of the District’s Department of Employment Services, said that contrary to popular opinion, much of the workforce in the District is college-educated, and employers participating in the plan would have that workforce to draw from.
“There’s some misunderstanding from time to time that those people that we serve may not have the skill necessary for these jobs. Well I’m here to tell you that we have 51,000 jobs available this month, right now. We have about 35,000 unemployed District residents. Our database alone also shows that over half of those individuals that have come to us unemployed actually have a bachelor’s degree,” Mallory said.
Mallory and Gray said that special emphasis would be placed on trying to provide additional job training to residents in certain Wards of the City where unemployment is atypically high.
Gray said that in eastern parts of the city “the numbers are absolutely horrific,” citing data indicating that unemployment is as high as 25 percent in Ward 8. “There isn’t a day that I go into Ward 8, for example, where people don’t stop me and say ‘Mr. Gray I need a job, I need a job, I need a job.’”
Gray maintained that infrastructure investment was vital to job creation in cities. He also said that his administration looked forward to working to support President Obama’s new jobs’ initiatives.
The “One City-One Hire” Initiative can already count the Hotel Association of Washington, Clyde’s Restaurants, Hensel Phelps Construction Company, Georgetown University and several other employers as program partners.
Lang said that although the program was only about a day old at the time of the press conference announcement, the Hotel Association of Washington “already has roughly 30 District residents beginning the hiring process with the expectation to begin work within the month. “
Lang said the Chamber is actively looking to add more employers to the program.
“This is the kind of commitment from the D.C. business community that will get the D.C. economy back on track. This public-private voluntary partnership between the business community and the District government is [a] strong step in the right direction towards improving the District’s economy and we look forward to working with this administration in developing additional incentives,” said Lang.