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Recession still felt as employment dips in College Park

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Published on: Wednesday, April 10, 2013

By Mary Faddoul

The recession that hit the nation in 2008 continues to affect the employment rate in College Park, leading to initiatives aimed at creating new jobs and businesses.

Employment for residents 20 to 64 years old has decreased, according to the American Community Survey, which is a yearly U.S. Census Bureau survey that samples a small percentage of the population. From 2007 to 2009, there existed a 69.1 percent employment rate. This dropped to 61.9 percent from 2009 to 2011, as reported by the ACS.

“I believe it is a significant change, probably due to the recession that hit in 2008,” said City Councilman Patrick Wojahn, District 1.

College Park has a population of about 30,344 people, according to the ACS estimate from 2009 to 2011. Of this population, there are about 17,091 in the 20 to 64 age group.

The decrease in employment has caused residents difficulty and many have faced foreclosures, said Wojahn.

Michael Stiefvater, the city’s economic development coordinator, said, “Small businesses likely cut back on hiring students to reduce labor costs.”

Taylor Gross, a junior at the University of Maryland who resides in College Park, has noticed the responses of businesses to the recession. She works at The Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center and her employer keeps cutting her hours of work.

A drop in property taxes has also affected the employment rate. Stiefvater explained that this drop “leads to a reduced budget for programs and services.” The taxes would help fund programs that may generate jobs. Regardless, the city is pushing for initiatives to encourage new residents and to create jobs.

Two strategies include the rebranding of College Park as “A Smart Place to Live” and the Sunday farmers’ market. The rebranding is meant to motivate people to move into the city and start their own businesses. The market’s purpose is to sell locally grown produce while bringing more people to downtown who may also visit other businesses in the area.

University of Maryland senior Zara Mohsin said she thinks the city should create more projects in order to have more jobs and boost employment, which is something College Park officials are working toward.

“The city is pushing for more development along Route 1 and near our Metro station, which would, of course, lead to increased job opportunities,” said Stiefvater.

Also, according to Wojahn, the city is working with developers on new projects, including that on Route 1.

The nationwide drop in employment because of the 2008 recession proceeds in College Park, but residents and officials agree that new projects need to be created to encourage more traffic in the area to enhance business and generate jobs.

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