Go Mideast, young man Workers seek jobs in Kuwait's reconstruction. PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN

March 14, 1991|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Evening Sun Staff

Bryon Hohl is a Vietnam veteran who has worked 17 years as a carpenter. Idris Mohammed Nur is an Ethiopian who has lived 20 years in the United States and works as a parking lot attendant on Charles Street.

The two Baltimore men have something in common: both want to strike it rich in reconstructing war-torn Kuwait.

Lured by rumors of salaries as high as a $50 an hour, workers are keeping phone lines to the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington and state and federal agencies tied up trying to find out how they can get jobs in Kuwait.

"We've gotten a lot of calls from people interested in working in Kuwait," said Curtis Kane, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Kane said 47 Marylanders have filled out applications to work in Kuwait during the past day or so at state unemployment offices, where they are given a special code so the state can keep track of them.

However, only five openings have been posted in the department's job referral listings -- all of them at companies located out of state that are searching for highly specialized workers such as helicopter repairmen.

Kane said he believes it is too soon to tell the extent of work that might be available in Kuwait or how much workers could earn. It may take several weeks or even several months before Maryland companies start receiving contracts and begin hiring workers for the reconstruction.

But Kane cited the efforts by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who traveled this week to Kuwait, as reason to hope that Maryland companies could receive a significant amount of the rebuilding work.

Louis Grasmick, vice president of the Kuwait-Maryland Partnership, a coalition of Maryland businesses that want to export goods and services to Kuwait, said hundreds of firms and individuals have called his office looking for business opportunities. "It's awesome," he said.

Searching for work in Kuwait can be frustrating. Hohl, who has no job in sight, said he has spent three months researching opportunities in that country. His first step was to go to the library and get addresses for companies already doing business overseas. He sent his resume to many of them. He also called the Kuwaiti Embassy and the office of Rep. Helen Bentley, R-2nd and visited the offices of the Kuwait-Maryland Partnership.

"I don't have anything holding me back," said Kohl, who is 39 and single.

Lately, he has been building houses in Howard County, but work has been slack this winter.

"I got fed up with snow days and weather days cutting me out of a week's pay," Hohl said. "I thought I might try something different."

Nur hopes to market his knowledge of Arabic and of the Arab culture to be a translator in Kuwait. He works 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. as a parking attendant in a lot across from the Charles Theatre. He hopes to earn large amounts of money in Kuwait so he can buy his own business, either there or in the United States.

A number of Hispanics in the Baltimore area also are hoping to find work in Kuwait, according to Pastor Lugo, vice president of the Hispanic Federation, an East Coast organization that has a number of members in the Baltimore area.

Lugo, who works at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, said 20 to 25 Hispanics have come to him, hoping he can advise them on job opportunities in Kuwait.

"We have a number of people who are professional people, such as engineers, and people who want to do construction."

Joan Parrish of Essex has been helping several of the men in her family search for jobs in Kuwait. But her phones calls have produced no leads.

Her husband, son and brother, who all are involved in construction, are attracted by the fantastic money they've heard can be earned in Kuwait. "We're hoping for $250,000 in 18 months," she said.

But she said she is not interested in going herself. "I'm not stupid," she said. "You couldn't pay me enough to go there."

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