The Silver Line is a new weapon in the local war for talent


Molly Weisse-Bernstein leaves for her morning commute in Washington. (Photo by J. Lawler Duggan/For Capital Business)

On the best days, it took an hour and 20 minutes for District resident Molly Weisse-Bernstein to commute to her job in McLean with government contractor LMI.

“There’s waiting time, there’s the handoff between the Metro and the bus, and the bus is fighting the same traffic as everyone else,” Weisse-Bernstein said.

She only started with LMI eight weeks ago, and she has tolerated the rough commute because she knew it was only temporary. The Silver Line, which offers a direct ride from McPherson Square to her company’s new headquarters near the Tysons Corner stop, should cut her commute to about 45 minutes.

Was the transit option a key factor in her decision to take the job?

“One-hundred percent, yes,” Weisse-Bernstein said.

Local recruiters and businesses are betting that there are many more workers like Weisse-Bernstein who might be newly receptive to working in neighborhoods along the Silver Line. And so the opening of the transit option adds a new dimension to the local war for talent: Companies in McLean and Reston believe they have a new recruiting tool for getting far-flung workers to consider their jobs.

Cvent, a Reston-based events software company, is set to move on Aug. 1 into a new headquarters building right outside the Greensboro station. To emphasize to prospective workers how close their digs are to the Metro, the company plans to launch a small drone  about 200 feet overhead to capture aerial photos that include their office and trains rolling into the above-ground station.

Eric Eden, Cvent’s vice president of marketing, said he expects this will make a particular difference when it comes to the company’s ability to hire millennials.

“A lot of the folks who [just] graduated from college, they want to live in Arlington or D.C. The lifestyle there for people right out of college is great,” Eden said. “To them, it seems like Tysons Corner is way far away. A lot of them don’t want to have a car.”

Amy Gulati, a business partner at Reston recruiting firm Helios HR, said she too expects the Silver Line to be an especially helpful feature as her clients aim to hire younger workers.

“The lack of public transportation was always a problem in recruiting a particular part of the labor force,” Gulati said.

LMI, a mid-size company, has been touting its Silver Line access in job postings in hope that it will help it better compete for talent with larger contracting firms who are already Metro accessible. Randy Carr, LMI’s senior manager for human resources, says he also expects Metro will help current workers be more productive. They anticipate they’ll be able to host more meetings with clients who previously would’ve struggled to get to McLean from downtown. That means less time in the car for their own workers, who might not have to drive to client sites as often.

“When you’re thinking of organizations that primarily work with the public sector and the federal government, the ability for us to have our clients out here in a more easy way is huge for us,” Carr said.

The Silver Line may not just impact talent recruitment strategies; it could also be a catalyst for companies to adopt new workplace benefits. Reston Limo is pitching employers on a service that would allow them to provide WiFi-enabled shuttle service to their workers to and from the Metro. To spread the word, the company has bedecked one of its vans with ads for the service and has been driving it all over the area.

“We’re just inundated right now with people that want quotes,” said Kristina Bouweiri, Reston Limo’s chief executive.

As Reston Limo developed its strategy, executives went out to the West Coast to meet with the vendor that provides the famed “Google bus,” a commuter shuttle provided by the tech giant that takes workers directly from San Francisco to its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

The company has purchased some 40 vehicles in the past two months, in anticipation of demand for this service, and it suspects it still might not have enough to fulfill the demand.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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