MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today, we're brining you our annual traditions show. And coming , we'll go inside a local musical tradition and meet the band that helped create Washington's acclaimed bluegrass scene and we'll go behind the scenes at the big Broadway style Christmas bonanza put on by a local church.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
But first, a different sort of tradition, one that’s more about survival and paying the bills. Living at the beach may seem like a great idea when it's July and you're lounging on the sand with your family and friends, but what does living at the beach mean when it's January and jobs are scarce? Well, that's the topic of today's "On The Coast."
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Our regular segment where coastal reporter Bryan Russo brings us the latest on life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and in Coastal Delaware. And Bryan joins us now from Berlin, Md. Hey there, Bryan.
MR. BRYAN RUSSO
Hey, Rebecca. How are you?
Hey, good, good. So it's December now and I'm going to venture a guess and say that Ocean City in December doesn't look very much like Ocean City in, say, August. Can you describe what it's like being there right now?
It's not exactly a ghost town, but it's pretty quiet. You can drive for probably a dozen blocks in Ocean City without seeing a store or a restaurant that’s open. And even some of the most prominent businesses such as the massive entertainment complex Secrets are closed several days a week.
OK. Well, that's quite the big change. I'm guessing then, there's a real trickle-down effect going on? Fewer jobs in retain and fewer jobs for restaurant workers then, right?
Exactly. A lot of people here work six or seven days a week during the summer and then spend the winter months on unemployment, searching for work. I talked about this with Dave Liederman, he's a real estate agent and he's also spent years moonlighting in the restaurant industry.
MR. DAVE LIEDERMAN
It's not that people aren't willing to work, the problem is they can't find jobs.
You know and even if they're lucky enough to find a job, maybe they actually make a little bit more off unemployment then they would at a seasonal job, an off season job somewhere.
OK. So say you patch together the money you make over the summer with unemployment or whatever money you manage to scrounge up during the winter. I have to ask, is that actually going to be enough to live on?
Well, if you look at the latest census figures, the medium income in the counties here on the coast is somewhere between $47,000 and $50,000 a year. Well, what those figures don't tell you is how much those people in certain parts of the economy are affected by both the national economic downturn and the season slowdown here. Darren Ang is a musician and he also owns a music shop in West Ocean City. He says the past few years have not been easy.
MR. DARREN ANG
The amount of sales has definitely dropped over the years. But I've been lucky enough to diversify what I do at the store and kind of make it up in other areas. But as far as playing music, I've been lucky enough to keep it going. But it's getting tough, that's for sure.
Bryan, I feel like you need to offer us, at least, a sliver of hope here. Is there any kind of bright side we can look to?
Well, there are some industries that are doing well. Health care is really booming because of the growing number of people that are retiring here on the coast. And there's a lot of talk about alternative energy being a source of jobs here in the future. Trevor Jones is with Wor-Wic Community College in Salisbury. He's dean of occupational education. So he's in charge of all the programs designed to put students directly into the workforce.
MR. TREVOR JONES
We all seen some of the development of the green requirements, materializing on the shore, obviously, still in this economic climate. It's still very, very limited. But again, as a community college that looks at those futures, we have already started developing some of those programs. We have an environmental energy technology program, for example.
But, you know, when you get right down to it, the beach is always going to be one of our most important assets. Memo Diriker is with the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University and he says tourism provides a lot more jobs than people realize.
MR. MEMO DIRIKER
More important than the tourism industry, the allied industry that supports tourism, the HVAC contractors, the painters, the plumbers, the electricians who come and fix the hotel rooms and upgrade the hotel rooms and the condos, etcetera, that allied industry is going to continue to thrive because you and I might be painting our houses once every 15, 20 years. A hotel room has to be painted every two, three years.
That is not going away.
And I'm guessing, at least, some of those hotels are open now? Just in case anyone wants to ring in the new year at the beach.
Oh yeah, I mean, you think most people down here on the coast would encourage everyone and anyone in Washington to come on down to the beach and ring in 2012 beach style.
Well, Bryan, thanks so much for joining us and happy holidays.
Happy holidays to you to, as always, my pleasure.
Bryan Russo is the coastal reporter for WAMU and the host of Coastal Connections on 88.3 in Ocean City, Md. If your job is driven by the seasons, we want to hear how you make it through the slow months. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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