Richard Greene

Texas no longer #1 at job creation. Why?

Abram Street is under construction in hopes of bring a more pedestrian friendly atmosphere to downtown Arlington.
Abram Street is under construction in hopes of bring a more pedestrian friendly atmosphere to downtown Arlington.

At a recent presentation to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, where I serve as one of its board members, we heard of the state-wide determination to protect our economy and why it matters.

Jeff Moseley, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, described the mission of the organization in the forefront of ensuring Texas is the best place to work, run a business and raise a family.

It is doing that by supporting initiatives in a bipartisan manner that encourage economic growth and provide good paying jobs for more Texans. Importantly, it opposes legislation that threatens the economy of the state.

Such objectives align perfectly with the Arlington Chamber’s work of championing economic and community prosperity.

In a nutshell, the benefit to all comes about with the realization that a healthy business economy pays most of the bills for governments to serve the public and puts people on the course to successful careers.

A thriving business economy also helps to keep property taxes lower for residents across cities that compete and win corporate expansion and relocation.

Moseley explained the urgency of succeeding with its mission by pointing out that Texas has fallen from number one in creating jobs in the United States to fourth.

If you are wondering how that happened, there may be some insight provided in the organization’s “scorecard” produced after every session of the legislature. The report reveals how every member of the legislature has voted on bills and issues that impact small and large employers across Texas.

In Arlington’s case, for example, among the three senators and six house members whose districts include parts of the city, seven of them, all Republicans, recorded declining scores on business issues in the last regular session compared to their career records.

The two who raised their performance are both Democrats.

When responding to questions of why their support for a stronger economy via incentives for companies has waned, some declare that they favor “free markets” and saying they don’t want to choose “winners and losers.”

While those answers may be popular at first blush and reveal political skills of obfuscation, neither of them make any common sense.

When local governments are denied the tools to incentivize economic development, as some legislators have proposed, the so called free market powers of companies equals their freedom to locate their businesses elsewhere.

That result means other states are the winners while Texas loses vital opportunities for economic growth and job creation.

As to picking winners and losers, I really have no idea what that means. It seems to me that millions and billions of dollars of corporate investment in a community results in everyone winning.

So, when you hear of local government leaders speaking of public/private partnerships and other incentives to entice the largess of companies, it’s because they believe such decisions are in the best interest of their communities.

In the end, citizens have the final say. If the majority of them aren’t interested in economic development, they will elect representatives who will decide not to use the existing statutory authorities available to them.

If they do embrace the benefits of economic growth, they will put leaders in office and empower them to compete for the benefits leading to job creation.

That’s the power of important choices in the hands of the people.

Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work in a democracy? If you answer in the affirmative, maybe it’s time to pay attention to what your state legislators are up to when they next convene in Austin.

You might conclude that simple instructions to them to leave local governments alone to do their job is the most powerful message you can deliver.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.