Spur more job creation by dropping wage floor
can’t mandate prosperity. You can, however, provide opportunity. Opportunity for families to support themselves, for our children to be educated, for businesses of all sizes to prosper. All this and more is accomplished when we provide opportunity for people to be employed and to move forward with a career. For our community to be successful, we must begin with the underlying premise that quality of life begins with a job. And not only jobs for some, but work for everyone.
The Greater Austin Chamber is about building the community, creating a gathering regional economy. Our consistent message is jobs for families, return for taxpayers and accountability for corporations that receive public investment.
The proposed changes to the City’s Economic Development Incentive Policy will be a moot point for companies seeking to hire highly educated software engineers with six-figure salaries. But consider this: the Austin City Council is heading in a direction where a company will not be eligible for incentives if even one job falls below $11 an hour. Recently, HID Global and U.S. Farathane chose Austin and collectively will bring more than 500 jobs to our region. Many of those jobs include positions that require only a high school degree, a GED, or less. Those companies are providing a pathway to prosperity for those in our community without advanced degrees. The firms will provide benefits and tuition reimbursements and will allow employees to create a work record — whether to advance at that company or apply to another. Completely different companies with the same net result: jobs at every level of the economic spectrum.
These were at-risk opportunities. The companies clearly stated that without the incentives, they could not have chosen Austin. This is the harsh reality of post-recession economic development: we must compete in a brutally competitive environment.
Let’s be clear: Incentives are not a silver bullet. They are just one tool in a business attraction tool kit that includes our business climate, our work force, and our standard of living. When it comes to incentives, it is helpful to focus on what we get when we get a big win. When our incentive standards are met and a company relocates or expands here, we are importing wealth to the entire region. Every new or expanded company spurs job creation and creates business opportunities for other local
We are one of America’s first cities to come out of the recession, and while it was hard for many of us, it could have been a lot worse.
And we need job creation. The unemployment rate in Central Texas still exceeds our pre-recession rate, which is completely unacceptable. If the “wage floor” becomes a requirement for incentives, we’ll be cutting out thousands of potential jobs for those who need them the most.
We are one of America’s first cities to come out of the recession, and while it was hard for many of us, it could have been a lot worse. Let us not forget that for those without job opportunities, it is still hard.
Another issue of concern is the “local hires” requirement. Forcing a company to hire only people who live within the city or county limits will only pit one Central Texas city against another. This is contrary to everything for which the Greater Austin Chamber stands. A policy that forces an employer to discriminate based on an address goes against everything we work to accomplish together as a region.
What matters most to the Chamber is developing a robust economy and strong community for decades to come. That means allowing companies to create the widest possible range for job opportunities. It’s simple: without a variety of jobs across the wage scale to accommodate all levels of educational attainment, there will be no way forward for those most vulnerable in our population. Our economic development policies must be flexible and competitive to welcome businesses that offer diverse wages. Tying the hands of our leaders guarantees that the opportunity for job creation will go elsewhere and that those who need help most will see their potential for success denied.
Working together, the Greater Austin region will continue to attract companies which create all manner of jobs, spurring growth and investment in Central Texas. And that’s what community is all about.