|By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 23, 2009--Hours before the Hard Rock Hotel's two-day housekeeper job fair was scheduled to open Monday morning, Troy Pierre was putting the finishing touches on the outfit he would wear.
Pierre knew he was overqualified for housekeeping; he has a master's degree from the University of New Orleans and management experience at a fuel distribution center in Iraq.
But with state unemployment at more than 11 percent, he knew he had to try.
"Yes, I have education," Pierre said. "But my father was a blue-collar worker and my mother was a school teacher. Bottom line, you do the best that you can with whatever you have."
Pierre moved to Las Vegas 22 months ago with his wife thinking it would be easy to find a job with his resume.
"But the economy happened," said Pierre, whose wife works at a resort on the Strip. "The majority of jobs I walk into, they think I'm looking to take their jobs and I'm not. I'm looking to make a living and move forward."
By 6 a.m., the unemployed, 47-year-old married man, sharply dressed in a gray pinstripe three-piece suit and maroon tie with crisply shined shoes, had made his way from the weekly motel around the corner to the hotel-casino to take his place at the front of the line.
The fair was not scheduled to start for another four hours.
"My goal was to be recognized," he said. "In this economy, anything I can utilize to get through the door to shine, I'm going to do it."
Pierre's effort did not go unnoticed.
Vice President of Human Resources Carrie Messina was immediately impressed when she met Pierre. She guaranteed him a job before the job fair opened. If not in housekeeping, somewhere.
Not bad for Pierre, who joined more than 2,000 people -- twice as many as the hotel-casino expected to show up -- applying for one of the 200 housekeeping jobs at the property.
The housekeepers will start work in two weeks. The property is holding another job fair today from 3 to 7 p.m.
The Hard Rock, which is undergoing a $750 million expansion that is scheduled to be completed in November, is planning on future job fairs to fill another 600 positions, including front-desk clerks, bartenders and casino dealers, although Messina said if enough qualified applicants are found at Monday's and today's events, those won't be necessary.
"Maybe you'll be a fit for something else," she said. "Maybe you came down to the housekeeping job fair but you're not really a housekeeper but you're a bartender looking for anything. If we find enough people today, we won't have any more job fairs. We'll call these people. We're not going to have people come down today and tell them to come back in October."
Pierre, who worked at hotels to pay his way through college, was surprised to find himself alone in line until 7:30 a.m.
By 9:30 a.m., a half-hour before the event was scheduled to start, the line had swollen to a few hundred people stretching through the casino.
The Hard Rock's job fair is one of the few recent good signs in the local job market -- Nevada reported 11.3 percent unemployment in May.
Messina believes the Hard Rock Hotel's reputation as a good employer helped attract a lot of people to Monday's fair, though.
"The Hard Rock did not lay off a single employee last year," she said. "We have a good reputation and that also draws people here."
The early turnout for the fair surprised Hard Rock Hotel officials.
Hard Rock Hotel President and Chief Operating Officer Randy Kwasniewski said business has been good, partly because of the resort's opening of the new Joint in April.
Construction on the expansion is ahead of schedule, with the 490-room hotel tower opening the third week of July, a couple of months early.
The second 375-room hotel tower, three new restaurants, a spa, new casino space and other amenities will open by the end of November, Kwasniewski said.
"We're still proceeding along," Kwasniewski said. "Our business has been healthy, knock on wood."
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3893.
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