As it prepares to open its first new roller coaster in a decade, Six Flags America has raised its seasonal hires by almost 90 from last year, bringing its total to 1,538 for its big summer season, which runs from late May through August.
The Largo theme park attributes much of the increase to its strong early spring break opening, as Maryland came off one of its warmest winters on record, said spokeswoman Havilah Ross.
Having temperatures as high as 70 degrees as early as February also has boosted seasonal employment at some other businesses around the county and buoyed their hopes for a stronger spring and summer than last year. But not all seasonal businesses are seeing sales rise with the temperatures.
Patuxent Greens Golf Club in Laurel anticipates increasing its corps of 30 seasonal employees, depending on the weather, said golf professional Clarince Thomas.
He added that the additional hires coincide with reinvestment in the course and the earlier-than-usual start of the season.
“We think people are feeling better about the economy. The price of gas is going down and people are feeling better about discretionary spending,” Thomas said.
Managers at other courses, such as Steve Mills of Marlton Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, said it’s the weather, not any economic rebound, that’s helping the industry.
He said Marlton hired the same two dozen seasonal employees it usually does, even though business also has been going down.
Although the warm weather might mean more seasonal hires, the changing economy may have an impact on just who those hires are.
Ross said Six Flags has seen more seasonal job applicants 40 and older, with a couple hundred in the 20- to 40-year-old range. Six Flags’ seasonal employees usually are younger than 18, she said; this year, the park hired more than 800 people older than 18.
“It’s a great training ground for the young people to learn from the older generation,” Ross said. “It gives us the ability to have more maturity within the park.”
Ross said Six Flags officials hope the balmy weather plus the planned June 7 opening of its 100-foot stand-up roller coaster Apocalypse will draw coaster enthusiasts from near and far.
Six Flags already saw attendance at its annual Math, Science and Physics Days this month rise to 6,000 from 3,000 in 2011, Ross said. Students pay less than half the regular admission on these days.
Less snow, more mow
Some landscaping and nursery businesses also have increased their seasonal work forces this year.
Green Future Construction, Landscaping and Tree Specialists in Laurel hired six more seasonal workers than last year, said manager Valerie Wiest.
“Since there wasn’t any snow, people were requesting landscaping and construction projects,” Wiest said, adding that the company has grown and expanded its marketing.
Although Green Future typically slows down in midsummer when people do less planting and mulching and head off on vacations, Wiest has high expectations for the season.
“We’ve already had some of our larger projects,” she said.
Plant City Garden Center, which opened just two months ago in Brandywine, hopes the trend toward more hires continues next year, said manager Jamie Eberhardt.
The early warmth actually hurt Plant City, as the business was too busy moving in to prepare properly for spring sales and has gotten into the game later than some competitors, Eberhardt said. Plant City has six employees.
Eric Roozen of Roozen Nursery in Fort Washington said his business hired its usual two seasonal workers and was not affected by the early warm weather. Instead, Roozen Nursery benefits from its online sales, he said.
Among recreation businesses, hiring may depend on the business model.
Jill DiMauro, owner of Proteus Bicycles in College Park, said her store functions better if she focuses on hiring full-time workers, even though activity might become a bit hectic in the spring and summer.
"It's a little hard on the business, but in the long run, you don't have to advertise for positions every time," she said.
National Harbor, the $4 billion mixed-use resort in Oxon Hill, is coming into its main tourist season on a high note, with most of its retail stores showing a year-over-year double-digit percentage sales increase for the first quarter, said spokeswoman Rocell Viniard. The development hired six seasonal employees this year, the same as last year.
The resort is launching new attractions this year, including Pops on the Potomac, which will feature the Chesapeake Orchestra starting June 16, with outdoor concerts through Aug. 25. Up to 4,000 people are expected at each concert, she said.