CEI Stories

Serving & supporting small business owners just like you.


July 27, 2015

The Press Hotel

Gina Nzanza Kiese, pastry chef, The Press Hotel
Gina Nzanza Kiese, pastry chef, The Press Hotel

The Portland Jobs Alliance, a city-wide workforce collaborative launched in September 2014 and led by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), partnered with The Press Hotel to help unemployed individuals access hospitality jobs. As its first project, the collaborative developed a free, customized training program held at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC). The Press Hotel shared its HR training manual for curriculum development and provided guest lecturers during the training. SMCC’s Maine Quality Centers Program covered the costs of the training program. Of the 10 students who completed the training, nine were hired by The Press Hotel. The 10th student has decided to stay in school. In June, the training received a regional recognition award from Greater Portland Council of Governments.

“What makes this jobs program unique and successful is its collaborative nature,” said Christa Baade, Program Developer for CEI’s Workforce Solutions program. “We brought together and leveraged a wide array of existing resources for underemployed and unemployed people and collaborated effectively with the business community for the best possible outcome.”

Gina Nzanza Kiese, a trained pastry chef who originally hails from the Congo, was one of the participants in the hospitality training. She came to Portland by way of Belgium, where she was the personal chef for the Argentine Ambassador.

“The training helped me make connections in the hospitality world and in Maine. I learned that if you are motivated and hard working you can be successful,” said Ms. Nzanza Kiese. For her interview at The Press Hotel, Gina was asked to bring samples of her pastries. But as a resident at Hope House (a shelter for New Mainers), she didn’t have access to a kitchen. With the help of those she met through her training program and her children’s day care provider, Gina found a kitchen and was able to create pastry samples. With her samples in hand, she was hired on the spot by The Press Hotel. This opportunity has enabled her to move into an apartment with her two children.

“This would never have happened to me in Belgium. Here, people who are almost strangers are willing to help you. I have never experienced that before.” — Gina Nzanza Kiese, pastry chef

“We were very pleased to participate in the hospitality training program with CEI and the Portland Jobs Alliance,” said Jim Brady, the owner and developer of The Press Hotel. “Part of this project is about investing in community, and there’s no better way to do that than by providing stable employment opportunities to local residents. The employees who went through the hospitality training came to The Press Hotel with a solid skill base and ready to work. We’re delighted to have them.”

In addition to CEI’s Workforce Solutions support, the organization utilized the State Historic Tax Credit program to invest $3.6 million in the project. “Because of the jobs component, The Press Hotel project was one we were interested in from the outset,” said John Egan, Senior Vice President, Lending and Investment at CEI. The State Historic Tax Program, like its federal counterpart, encourages private sector investment in the rehabilitation and re-use of historic buildings for economic development. “The Press Hotel fit this description perfectly, and with our partner, Norway Savings Bank, we made the decision to invest here. The project is one of a kind in Portland.” 

About The Press Hotel Formerly home to the Portland Press Herald newspaper, this historic building located at 119 Exchange Street in the Old Port, was transformed into a 110-room boutique hotel. Opened in May 2015, The Press Hotel celebrates the local arts and pays homage to the Press Herald past with thoughtful design details and an art gallery featuring works from Maine artists. UNION, the 65-seat restaurant, features enhanced local cuisine by Portland Chef Josh Berry. The Press Hotel is part of the Autograph Collection™. For more information visit www.thepresshotel.com.  Follow the hotel on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter.

About the Portland Jobs Alliance The Portland Job Alliance is a partnership of community education and employment practitioners utilizing a comprehensive approach to prepare skilled immigrants and refugees, single parents, and people with low to moderate incomes to successfully find and keep quality jobs while meeting the growing employment needs of Portland-area businesses. The Portland Jobs Alliance is funded through a Community Development Block Grant from the City of Portland and the John T. Gorman Foundation. For more information, visit www.portlandjobsalliance.org.

The Portland Jobs Alliance Partners: CEI, Portland Adult Education, Catholic Charities Maine, City of Portland Refugee Services Program, Preble St Resource Center, Community Financial Literacy.

Portland Jobs Alliance Supporting Partners: Goodwill Industries of NNE, Growing Portland, Maine Department of Labor’s Portland CareerCenter, SMCC, USM.

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