Chamber fears wage floor step
Business recruiters say adopting pay used in Visa deal could make area less attractive.
Visa Inc. made a key concession in its incentives deal with Austin that apparently helped the agreement sail through the City Council Thursday night.
The financial services giant offered to require that all of the jobs tied to its project – including the construction jobs — would pay at least $11 an hour. After the company made that offer, the deal got quick approval from the council and no debate from community groups that have sought higher wages for construction jobs.
Visa is expected to select a site for its proposed global technology center before the end of the month. The project is expected to create at least 794 new high-paying jobs over the next five years.
While Visa gained a quick approval for its incentives, business recruiters for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce say they are con- cerned that creating an $11 “wage floor” for construction jobs will make the area less competitive for major corporate expansion projects, including those that would employ less-skilled workers.
“I don’t understand why some would want to change a policy that has worked for eight and a half years and that has allowed Austin to be the most prolific job creator in America,” said Gary Farmer, who heads Opportunity Austin, the economic development affiliate of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.
Travis County commis- sioners approved the $11 an hour wage floor on incentives deals in late November and a special committee of the City Council has recommended that the city pass a similar requirement. That recommendation is expected to come before the City Council next month.
For the Visa deal, there was never a question that the jobs the company is expected to fill — many of them for skilled software developers — will far exceed any wage floor. The annual salary for all jobs cre-