Mark your calendars for May 1, 2014 because both the D.C. Mayor and general manager of the new Marriott Marquis hotel say the hotel will open on time. They are so confident, that beginning Sept. 6, the pipeline for grooming the new hotels’ 600 hospitality workers will fly wide open and a half dozen local non-profit partners will help the Hospitality Jobs Training Program to fill those positions exclusively with District residents.

Against the backdrop of a giant crane and an active construction site at 9th and L Street, Mayor Vincent Grey led a chorus of cheerleaders from the political community to tout the success of his administration’s effort to turn the District’s economy around.

“Our city is in great shape and we are in better fiscal condition than ever before. This is about securing the future by reshaping and redefining the economy. We are losing federal jobs in droves and if we turn to hospitality, technology and education we will make Washington the greatest city in the world,” said the Mayor as he went on to short-list a number of recent awards the District has received as the #1 strongest economy, the #1 technology ‘Hot Spot’ by Forbes magazine and the #1 retail market on the east coast.

“This has been a city that suffers from low self-esteem and I’m sick and tired of dealing with people who dog the District out. This is the greatest city in the world,” said a defiant Mayor before turning the stage over to a parade of local government officials who were glad to take credit for the booming hospitality and tourism economy including Ward 2 Councilman Jake Evans and Councilman Marion Barry and for building the original convention center that anchors the site for the new Marriott hotel.

“As long as the lion tells the story he will be king of the jungle” said former mayor Barry as he reminded the crowd of the 18,000 women on welfare and challenged the workforce partners to make sure that some of them got hired as chamber maids along with ‘returning citizens’ or ex-offenders to take advantage of the $35,000 a year jobs.

But the real heavy lifting to fill those 600 jobs falls squarely on the shoulders of Goodwill CEO Catherine Meloy and the network of non-profit job training organizations, including United Way of Greater Washington, who chipped in an additional $350,000 to complement the $2 million raised by the Hospitality Jobs Training program to provide transportation stipends, case management services and digital literacy training to ensure the success of the participants.

“The common goal of the program is to create sustainable careers and to create a positive change and brighter future for DC residents,” said Meloy as she described the network of support agencies as the spokes in the wheel of a bicycle which she was clearly riding downhill to the finish line.

One of the local partners from the Shaw community who has played a consistent role in negotiating community benefits was Ibrahim Mumin, who better described the opportunity as a ladder.

“The applicant has to get past the first rung and then they will see it as a climb up
a career ladder to the top,” said Mumin.

The best example of that hospitality career ladder is Dan Nadeau, the general manager of the Marriott Marquis, who started with Marriott as an hourly associate bussing tables in the Boston area and is now the GM of the hotel chain’s signature facility.

“Marriott has a long family history of roots in Washington starting their company as a root beer stand in 1947. There is a deep seated spirit of service that runs throughout this company. When this hotel opens it will be the largest hotel in the city, with the largest open atrium and will feature the largest piece of artwork in the world and it will open on time,” said Nadeau.

The hotel will house a 27,000 pound sculpture called the Birth of the American Flag, a Museum-quality 56 foot tall art piece that will be erected as part of the ‘design-rich’ atrium lobby reaching to the fifth floor of the 15 floor building.

District residents interested in applying for one of the 600 entry level and management positions can enroll beginning Sept. 6 at one of over a half-dozen locations that the Hospitality Jobs Training program will offer by calling 202-719-1281 or they can apply online by visiting


Malcolm Lewis Barnes

Special to the AFRO