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Job Fair Clocks in 2,000 Attendees

August 2, 2002

Ashburn resident Jay Anthony had no intention of going to the Northern Virginia Job Fair on Friday.

Anthony already had a job as The Middleburg Bank's assistant vice-president of investment services, but at 5 p.m. on Thursday, his position was eliminated from the Ashburn branch.

"The conditions for the market haven't been good for the past year," Anthony said "So, I'm one of many folks laid off these days."

The next morning, Anthony saw an ad for the one-day job fair sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-11th.) He joined about 2,000 others at Northern Virginia Community College to search for a job in investments and to consider a possible career change. "It's probably not good from all the folks who are here," he said in reference to the area's job market.

WOLF AND DAVIS organized the job fair following the June 28 layoff of 530 employees from the Ashburn WorldCom facility.

"The decision was made to have a job fair for the entire region," said Dan Scandling, Wolf's spokesperson. "It was not just for WorldCom employees."

Davis said he and Wolf "couldn't sit idly by. ... There is still job growth in Northern Virginia, but our goal is to match the skills and jobs together."

Job seekers from Loudoun, the metropolitan Washington, D.C. region and out of state had to move through packed hallways and classrooms in the three-story Charles L. Waddell Building. They had a chance to visit 130 company and federal agency booths to collect company information and drop off their resumes. The companies were from Virginia and the metropolitan region and included the United States Postal Service and America Online Incorporated (AOL), along with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the State Department. There were telecommunication and technology companies, colleges and banks represented.

Charles Crim was surprised at the number of people who stopped by the booth for Postal Consultants, LLC in Leesburg, a company he owns with his wife Mariam Collins and their partner Robert Brown. Postal Consultants furnishes contractors to the postal service in marketing, procurement, engineering and wholesale. "That many people available in the market with that level of experience probably hasn't happened before," said Crim, who collected 50 resumes, six of which were from former WorldCom employees, within an hour. "The quality of these people we've been talking to is exceptional."

UNITED AIRLINES in Dulles had a booth set up down the hall where employment interviewer Juanita Cox accepted resumes and application forms for ground support positions at Dulles Washington International Airport and two other area airports to accommodate an increase in flights. The majority of the 100 people who had stopped by the booth by 10 a.m. were former WorldCom and AOL employees seeking full-time information technology positions, Cox said. "From the crowd we got here, it looks like a lot of people are wanting jobs," she continued. "I'm sure a lot of people affected by WorldCom will find something. We have very good companies here."

Ashburn resident Matt Irving has been looking for a job in sales and account management since June 1, when he was laid off from America Online during a downsizing of the interactive marketing department.

"Marketing is one of the first things to go," Irving said, adding that his job search has been "frustrating."

"There's a lot of qualified people all searching for the same type of jobs," Irving said, adding that his best resource has been networking, since prospective employers have thousands of e-mails to sort through. "It's tough to find people willing to talk to you."

Deborah Allen of Leesburg said the WorldCom layoffs are occurring at the same time as layoffs for Web MD in Fairfax, where she is a software business analyst and has been employed the past four years. Half of the staff was laid off two weeks ago and the rest, including her, will be laid off in August to close down the office.

"It's going to be even tougher to find jobs now," said Allen, who has been searching for a job for the past six months. "Loudoun County used to have the lowest unemployment rate, but not anymore with the things happening with WorldCom and AOL. Now, it's going to be even harder to find a job in Loudoun County, especially in technology."

LOUDOUN'S UNEMPLOYMENT rate was 4.3 percent in May, compared to 2 percent during the same month a year ago and 2.9 percent in 2001, according to the latest information available from the Virginia Employment Commission. The unemployment rate in the state is slightly lower for May 2002 at 4.1 percent, while the national rate is 5.5 percent.

"People are standoffish about adding individuals. They're filling specific jobs, but there's a wait-and-see attitude," said Sterling resident Hank Hancher.

Hancher was laid off in June from the Marriott in Rockville, Md., where he worked for seven years and served as the facility's general manager. He's now seeking a facility management or sales position, where he can use his 25 years of management experience. "People are filling the positions they absolutely need to fill. Until their budgets support it, they won't add someone because revenues seem to be down," he said.

Davis and Wolf sponsored the job fair in conjunction with the Virginia Employment Commission. The three worked together with the region's Chambers of Commerce, the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) and CapNet, an association of technology companies, to attract companies and federal agencies to the job fair.

The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce may host another job fair, since the Northern Virginia Job Fair "was such a successful event," said Randy Collins, Chamber president. The chamber was one of the vendors at the job fair.

"I think everyone was absolutely overwhelmed by the number of job seekers that showed up," Collins said. "There was a great number of people outside the Loudoun area. ... The attendance was huge."