The news that a group of Korean American clothing manufacturers from Los Angeles are contemplating moving their businesses to El Paso should be something that is welcomed, but for a lot of social media harrumphers, it’s become the chance to hate on the city’s job prospects.
City officials also seem to be turning a blind eye toward the Korean American Apparel Manufacturers Association, but the question is, why?
City officials and political candidates love to say “it’s all about bringing high-tech companies and high-paying jobs to El Paso.” They say low-wage jobs and manufacturing jobs are the past and to move into the future, El Paso has to eschew those types of industries in favor of jobs that will bring highly-educated people to the Sun City and help prevent the so-called ‘brain drain’ of our best and brightest.
This is all a lovely idea, but those types of jobs require a tremendous amount of higher education and training in those fields. They also require high school students who are prepared to go on to higher education.
According to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test, or STAAR, El Paso area schools did see some improvements in testing in 2014, which is a hopeful sign, but what about the student who doesn’t aspire to higher education?
What about the student who would rather forego college to jump straight into the work force?
It is politically incorrect to put voice to the notion that not everyone will go to, or finish college. We push every high school student toward that shining goal, but the truth is, college isn’t for everyone.
Do we leave those students to flounder with no marketable skills and no available jobs because they didn’t go the higher education route?
Where would a large number of El Paso families be if ASARCO wasn’t around in the early days of the city to provide jobs for those who weren’t fortunate enough to get an education? Pay attention to the posts on social media whenever talk of the the copper smelter comes up, and you’ll see many people praising ASARCO for putting food on their families tables and putting a roof over their heads.
For the most part, those were not easy, or high-paying, jobs, but they were vital employment for many El Pasoans.
Which brings us back to the Korean American manufacturers. El Paso City Council needs to go after every high-tech, high-paying job they can get. We need to make our city attractive to those industries and companies, but we also need to be mindful of the worker who can’t fill those jobs, the worker whose needs can be met by a lower, but still livable, wage.
El Paso City Council should welcome the Korean American business owners with open arms, but because of the break they will get on the cost of doing business, they shouldn’t give away the farm on incentives to bring their businesses here.
The wages paid here will be lower than the $15 minimum wage they are facing in California, as are the rents for manufacturing space. The amazing weather, the tremendously lower housing prices, and an already vibrant Korean American community should be enough to seal the deal, but we need to have City Council on board.
It’s time that Council realize that they need to bring a broad spectrum of jobs to El Paso in order to bring prosperity back to the Sun City.