Laid-Off Workers Sites Planned After Success of Enron Ex-Employee Community

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An online job-networking firm is launching Web sites for laid-off employees of major corporations after a successful run with EnronX.org.


Rexton Interactive Media, Houston, formed EnronX.org -- now listed at www.xers.org/enron/enronX -- after its wireless services contract for Enron was cut last fall. In December, massive layoffs of full-time and contract Enron workers ensued.


Rexton and ex-Enron employees began the site in December to help laid-off workers find jobs, share their stories on the message board, get information on the class-action lawsuit against Enron, get training for new jobs and network with each other.


Rexton found that EnronX also could produce profits from advertising.


Advertisers, such as law firms and health insurance providers, agreed to donate money to have their banners on the site's front page.


"They pay whatever they want to offer: one was $1,300, another was $3,000," said Anthony Huang, CEO of Rexton and spokesman for EnronX.


In addition, job-training, recruitment and other types of companies signed on to the $900-per-issue sponsorship of the site's weekly e-mail newsletter. The primary content of the e-newsletter is highlights from that week's messages on the site's message board. The EnronX e-mail database has grown to 5,000, and advertising sponsorships have produced results.


For example, a training firm advertised a training class in one city, and about 50 ex-Enron workers attended.


Rexton officials think that the new sites -- Compaq.xers.org and Nortel.xers.org launch March 11 and GlobalCrossings.xers.org and Lucent.xers.org are among those that will debut soon -- will generate the same interest from advertisers.


"Sponsors include national organizations that want the potential to get in touch with the freshest job applicants," Huang said.


They will pay $12,000 per quarter for placement on the front of each "xers" site, and the weekly e-newsletter sponsorship fee will remain at $900 per issue. Corporations also pay $150 per year for searches of the ex-employees' resumes, which are posted for free.


Huang said the time is ripe for these online communities: corporations have laid off thousands of workers in the fourth quarter of 2001 and in early 2002. Huang envisions dedicated sites for ex-employees of Computer Associates, Sprint, Continental Airlines, Ford, General Motors, Williams Communications and others.


"We think the economy is going to continue this way," he said.


Huang thinks the firm's experience with EnronX has given it a successful formula to use for additional laid-off worker sites.


"We're going to be the [hosting] medium for this type of community ... creating online communities that champion their cause," he said.


Rexton's formula includes connecting to ex-workers personally, by having a spokesperson who worked at the company, along with three or four other "champions" of the ex-workers' cause. Ex-employees volunteer their time to operate the Web site and organize events, which allow the laid-off workers to share their stories and find jobs. Rexton employees also respond to e-mails from ex-workers and help them find jobs.


"It doesn't take millions [of dollars] to create a marketing campaign," Huang said. "It takes a very essential cause that has to do with a human culture. You need the ability to own people's mind share and be able to lead them into taking an active stance."


But Huang thinks Rexton's role is simply serving as the platform for ex-workers to organize, rather than "leading the force."


Meanwhile, EnronX has generated interest beyond the firm's laid-off workers in the United States and other countries. Stephen Cooper, Enron's interim CEO, approached Huang about using the EnronX site as a way to communicate with ex-employees.


"I said, 'yes, but you're going to have to pay,'" Huang said.


However, not everyone has been thrilled with EnronX. A major financial firm wanted to post its job openings on the site, then reversed its position.


"They said they don't want to have an association with an ex-employees' organization," Huang said.


In addition, online employment sites HotJobs.com and Monster.com did not want to be associated with the site, he said.


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