Economic leadership must be accountable
Positive spin put on bad news last week shows just how far Tucson must go to improve its job market and economic opportunities.
Add that to a series of recent announcements about new employers, and it exposes how far away Tucson business and political leaders and the official economic development agency are from fulfilling the No. 1 economic development strategy – to grow high-quality jobs.
The spin came on the bad news that Texas Instruments will cut 300 jobs here in 2008 and 2009.
A Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. official said it actually is good news because 300 high-paying jobs will remain at the plant near Tucson International Airport. The lost jobs pay less, the official said.
That spin makes it sound as if TREO was OK with Tucson losing those jobs.
Of course, we know that isn’t true. But at the same time, neither is it true that this is good news in the ongoing quest for economic improvement.
What is a “low-paying” job at Texas Instruments? From $10 to $37 an hour, a company official said. That’s a range of $20,800 to $76,960 a year.
Tucson has plenty of jobs, but they average at the low end of that range.
It’s why “high-skilled/high-wage jobs” is rightfully the No. 1 priority in TREO’s Economic Blueprint.
The problem is there’s scant evidence of movement toward it. Patience is necessary, but TREO hasn’t even said how it will meet this goal.
The agency should make public its plans, starting with a definition of “high-skilled /high-wage jobs.”
How about doing so at a public forum for Tucsonans? After all, they pay for most TREO operations, via local government, and have the most to gain or lose.
Here’s why TREO should spell out plans for quality job growth:
TREO reported in January that in its first two years, it attracted six employers to Tucson, with 1,325 “new direct jobs” and payroll of $24.6 million.
That sounded good until we did the math: The new jobs pay $18,566 a year on average, roughly half of Tucson’s median household income.
Though things don’t seem to have improved this year, TREO lists these developments on its Web site:
• Computer Designs Inc. will make 25 hires at “market wages” in 2007.
• Global Investment Recovery Inc.’s computer recycling center opens this year, with 85 jobs; pay was unspecified.
• Retailer Target will open a South Side order fulfillment center in 2009. No job numbers or pay were disclosed.
• Macsteel Service Centers USA opened a metals processing and distribution center in May. Neither job numbers nor payroll were disclosed.
• Afni Inc., a call center, will add 350 jobs in 2008. Though no pay range is shown, Tucson call center jobs generally pay $10 to $15 an hour.
The bottom line is that, taken collectively, these announcements fall well short of the goal of bringing high-skilled/high-wage jobs to Tucson.
Local business and political leaders and TREO owe an accounting of why they are falling short and what they are going to do about it.
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