Cham­ber fears wage floor step

Busi­ness re­cruiters say adopt­ing pay used in Visa deal could make area less at­trac­tive.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Kirk Laden­dorf kladen­dorf@states­ Cham­ber

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-

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