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As a follow up to yesterday’s protest over Clark Construction’s low local hiring numbers at St. Elizabeths, let’s take a look back.

Once upon a time, there was a project called the Nationals Stadium. It was very heavily funded by the city, and Mayor Anthony Williams set ambitious targets for hiring of D.C. residents, as did a project labor agreement with local construction unions. At the end of the project, those targets hadn’t quite been met, but the results were still impressive: According to Clark’s own report, 50.5 percent of new hires and 85 percent of new apprentices were D.C. residents. By another metric, D.C. residents accounted for 35 percent of all hours worked.

It’s true that the ballpark project was smaller, worth $611 million to a total of $3.4 billion for the new Department of Homeland Security Headquarters. So far though, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton reports that 1,268,286 hours have been worked at St. Elizabeths, compared to 2,171,872 over the course of ballpark construction, so it’s hard to argue that the pool of qualified D.C. labor can have already dried up. Back then, there was also a development bonanza in the region; the ballpark was hardly a construction worker’s only option.

The difference between the two projects? In the ballpark scenario, a local entity was paying the bills, and unions had huge sway, both of which create more solid pipelines for D.C. residents to job opportunities. Again, construction projects shouldn’t be the sole focus of addressing unemployment—-jobs are jobs, after all, and as far as the feds are concerned, a Marylander deserves work just as much as a Washingtonian. But the General Services Administration has said it will try to hire locally, and past experience suggests it’s totally possible to do so.

Image by pgmark via Wikimedia Commons.