EMPTY JOBS and unemployed people are starting to find each other in Greater Washington, thanks to the reaction of regional leaders to some suggestions made earlier this year. It began back in May, with an account by reporter Barbara Carton in Fairfax County. Employers there were saying they were suffering the worst labor shortage in recent memory -- while across the Potomac in the District of Columbia, the unemployment rate was above 8 percent, and much higher in certain neighborhoods. That called for at least one obvious question, and we raised it: We asked Mayor Barry, Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity, various Northern Virginia employers and the Greater Washington Board of Trade if the city could step up efforts to match D.C. people with Fairfax jobs.
They did. Mayor Barry and Chairman Herrity in particular have been working on ways to match people and jobs -- with transportation, training and other basic support. Still more action is under way around the region, with a series of meetings scheduled between D.C. officials and suburban government and private industry leaders. In addition to Fairfax, other jurisdictions that have been arranging meetings with Mayor Barry include Arlington County, Alexandria and Montgomery.
Prince George's County, too, should join in, though there has been some reluctance, based on the District's residency requirements for D.C. government jobs. It shouldn't be a factor, since employers in the county do need help. Besides, D.C. officials note, there already are more than 100,000 county residents working in the District -- or about 10 times the number of D.C. residents working in Prince George's County.
Mayor Barry has said he will meet personally with the suburban employers, to work out specific job orders as well as employer-designed training programs to be underwritten by the D.C. government. Transportation is being worked out, too: In Fairfax, for example, a construction company already has been signed up for 15 D.C. workers; transportation costs of a van will be shared with the D.C. government.
When these arrangements work, everybody benefits. Forget boundary lines, color lines and crossed lines of communication, and you have the makings of stronger economy throughout the region.