HANFORD -- Ty Rose came home from Iraq last year with new leadership skills he thought would translate into a job stateside.
But it took creating new jobs with federal economic stimulus money for him to find work, he told Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Thursday. She was at the HAMMER training and education center to see how American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money was being spent that she fought to have allocated for Hanford cleanup.
Since $1.96 billion in stimulus money was designated for environmental cleanup at the Hanford nuclear reservation, more than 35,000 people have applied for the jobs, according to the Department of Energy.
The money has provided work for about 5,600 people so far. However, that includes people whose jobs are only partially paid for with stimulus money or those who may have had just short-term or part-time work. When new work is figured in 40-hour per week increments, it translates to 2,500 full-time jobs created or saved, according to the Department of Energy.
Rose is a good example of how that money has helped families struggling in the poor economy, Murray said.
"I never thought in a million years I would have trouble finding a job," Rose said. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in Iraq as a platoon commander with the Marine Corps.
But he found that he was competing for work with people who had 15 or 20 years of experience before they lost their jobs.
His life changed when he went to a service academy career conference in Washington, D.C., researching CH2M Hill in advance as a company for which he'd like to work and visiting its table first at the conference.
The company offered him a job at Hanford and he accepted. Rose, who grew up in Tennessee, moved to the Tri-Cities in June and a month later his wife, whose job as a teacher was in jeopardy, joined him from North Carolina. They've since bought a house in Pasco and are raising two kittens.
Rose works in the area near Hanford's K Reactors as a field work supervisor, a job that he said takes attention to detail and an ability to work with people.
In the political world, there may be debate about how effective the recovery act has been.
But Rose said, "I can tell you the recovery work money is helping us out."
The nation has a long way to go until families and communities fully recover from the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, Murray said. But the spending at Hanford shows that the stimulus package is helping by putting people like Rose to work and getting the economy going again, she said.
Washington is third in the nation in jobs created by stimulus money, she said. The Tri-Cities has been the big beneficiary in the state with about $224 million of the stimulus money for Hanford spent to date.
It's meant parents going back to work to provide for their families. And they're spending money, reducing small-business owners' worries about having to hand out pink slips, she said. It's why the value of homes in the Tri-Cities remains strong, she said.
At Hanford "work is getting done and it is getting done safely," said Dave Brockman, manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office.
Large chemical tanks have been demolished, work has started to expand a large landfill for low-level radioactive waste, buildings have come down, wells have been drilled for projects to clean up ground water, and contaminated glove boxes have been pulled out of the Plutonium Finishing Plant with stimulus money, he said.
At the DOE Office of River Protection, stimulus money is being used to rebuild an antiquated support system that will be needed to move radioactive waste to the vitrification plant for treatment once the plant is finished, said Shirley Olinger, manager of the DOE Hanford Office of River Protection.
CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., the DOE contractor responsible for central Hanford cleanup, has received the largest portion of the stimulus money at Hanford and has doubled its work force since the start of its contract 13 months ago. It continues to hire new workers.
"We have created jobs," said John Lehew, the company's president. "We're reducing life cycle costs and we're reducing the overall cleanup footprint of the Hanford site."
Most of the economic stimulus money is expected to be spent within two years. Then annual budgets, which have averaged about $2 billion a year at Hanford, will help determine how many new workers still will have jobs at Hanford.
But workers like Rose will have experience and skills that will help them compete in the job market, Murray said. And even though the stimulus money will be spent, work on some Hanford projects will continue for decades, Murray pointed out.
Rose is optimistic. He learns more about Hanford work each day and knows that many of Hanford's workers hired before stimulus money became available are nearing retirement age.
"There are going to be openings," he said. "I will have a couple years of exact experience."
Murray toured the HAMMER center, observing a class where new Hanford employees were learning how to correctly seal up clothing to protect them against hazardous substances during cleanup work. The site has radioactive and hazardous chemical contamination.
As the work force has expanded, the HAMMER center has helped prepare thousands of workers to safely work on the nuclear reservation, said Karen McGinnis, HAMMER director.
Murray also toured Delta High School in Richland and had been scheduled to see Kadlec Regional Medical Center's new $7.4 million pediatric center. However, her plane was diverted to Walla Walla and she had to shorten her schedule, missing the tour of the Richland hospital's soon-to-open children's center.