Nearly a year in, Marriott Marquis says job training program has worked

March 20, 2015

By Abha Bhattarai Feb. 11, 2015

With $206 million in public subsidies, the Marriott Marquis opened its doors in the District last May with a promise that a majority of its staff would be D.C. residents for the first year.

Ten months later, District officials say the hotel has mostly made good on its pledge, citing Marriott International’s $2 million jobs training initiative as one of the more successful programs aimed at training — and placing — District residents into jobs.

As of February, the Bethesda-based hotel giant said it had a 77 percent retention rate among District residents who had been hired through the training program conducted by Goodwill of Greater Washington. Of the hotel’s 650 hourly employees, 189, or 28 percent, were graduates of the training program.

“The Hospitality Jobs Training Program has worked,” Kathryn Lambert, director of human resources for the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “We began working with Goodwill several months before the opening of our hotel to source the local community for interested candidates and to prepare selected participants with necessary life skills to start the interview process.”

More than 2,000

District residents originally applied for the job training intiative, which was overseen by Events D.C., the entity that owns the convention center.

In all, 719 District residents were trained and referred to Marriott. Of those, 178 — about 25 percent— were hired for the hotel’s opening day May 1, comprising about one-third of the 500-employee staff, according to figures from the D.C. Department of Employment Services.

As of mid-January, 49 percent, or 409, of the hotel’s 820 employees were District residents, according to Christina Tucker, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Employment Services. Although the proportion of employees who live in the District was less than the 51 percent requirement, Tucker said Marriott was not in violation of District law because the company was continuing to host job fairs and hiring events aimed at hiring D.C. residents.

Prior to the Marquis’s opening, the historic high for D.C. residents hired at a Washington hotel was 21 percent, Tucker said.

The hotel’s retention rate “has been pretty stable and certainly better than at a lot of hotel openings,” said John Boardman, executive vice president of the labor union Unite Here Local 25, which counts 520 Marriott Marquis employees among its members. Boardman is also on the board of Events D.C.

The 1,175-room Marriott Marquis has been the subject of contentious debate for more than 20 years as D.C. officials and corporate entities wrangled over the property’s financing, development and construction.

The District ultimately provided $206 million, or 40 percent, of the hotel’s final cost of $520 million. As part of that deal, Marriott agreed that at least 51 percent of the hotel’s hires would be District residents.

A February report by Good Jobs First, a District-based nonprofit think tank, cited the Marquis as one of the District’s success stories, in part because of the hiring requirements.

On the whole, however, the report, which was commissioned by a local affiliate of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, found that the District had

a spotty record

in holding businesses accountable for hiring targets tied to public subsidies.


The retention rate of employees who had been hired for Marriott Marquis through the Goodwill training initiative

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.