Recruiting new jobs to the El Paso-Juarez area in the past three years has been tough because of poor global economic conditions, but officials with El Paso's privately operated industrial recruitment organization are convinced they have the right recruitment strategy in place.
"We are convinced our operating model is working," Jimmy Rogers Jr., the outgoing board chairman of the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corp., or REDCo, told a meeting of REDCo investors last week.
The organization has the right consultants and the right staff and is being proactive, he said.
Russ Vandenburg, president of TVO North America, which owns and operates apartment complexes across the country, is REDCo's incoming board chairman.
"Sure, we're not happy about not creating more jobs. We're dealing with a terrible economy," Rogers said. "Someday, that economy is going to get well, and we're going to be in place to take advantage of it."
Ken Farah, REDCo director of operations, said the organization did not bring any new jobs to El Paso this year.
REDCo investors last week approved a 2012 budget of $1.57 million, up about $300,000 from last year. Almost $800,000 of that goes to pay REDCo's seven-person staff. The money comes from private companies.
The money will be used in the effort to go after companies for manufacturing and other facilities in five industries targeted by REDCo years ago: automotive, clean technology, defense-homeland security, life sciences and high-tech
REDCo next year for the first time will have recruitment committees made up of REDCo board members and investors for each of the target industries.
REDCo's goal is to bring at least 1,500 new jobs to this area next year, at least half them paying above the state median, or market midpoint, wage (now at $15.14 per hour, or $31,490 per year), according to the group's 2012 operating plan.
Bob Cook, REDCo president, said the past two years have been the "most unique, challenging, and frustrating of my 30-year career in this (economic development) business."
"Site consultants are telling us the same thing -- companies are building liquidity and sitting on capital right now because of the uncertainty of the future. Decision-making time frames (for new locations) are really being extended for these companies," he said.
Fifty-two companies have put El Paso on its short list, which means the city is among a handful of others they are considering as locations for new facilities, Cook reported. Ten companies have Juarez on their short lists, he said.
One company this year has committed to locate a facility in El Paso, but has not given permission for an announcement to be made, Cook said. Four companies have told REDCo that they will locate facilities here when they decide to move forward with new ones, he said. Cook gave no specifics.
Since REDCo was formed in June 2004, it has helped bring 43,840 jobs to El Paso and Juarez, Cook reported. More than half those jobs are soldiers (20,300) and civilian employees (2,806) added to Fort Bliss since the Base Realignment and Closure procedures began in 2005.
REDCo has helped bring in 6,219 new private-sector jobs to El Paso since 2004, and 14,515 new jobs to Juarez, Cook said.
Cook said experts are saying that it's likely Congress may, as early as 2013, initiate the process for another round of military facility closures. So next year REDCo wants to begin helping to form a community strategy to get the Department of Defense to bring in operations to Fort Bliss from any closures.
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