Jobs, But Not Just Any Job
Of course, there is a reoccurring need in our state for jobs and as more and more folks enter the marketplace it is important we have work for them. However, it is my opinion that our fair state has never seen a job it didn’t like, and yes, of course, there are bad jobs. Well, are we are still recruiting bad jobs? Hey, you bet we are! This ain’t Vermont. It can be a hog farm on the Buffalo Watershed or a polluting Chinese Pulp Mill or a maximum security prison. “Bring “um on if they create jobs, seems our goal.
During the six years I served on what was then the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, many times the question, when a potentially threat to the environment came up when considering a permit, the question was, “How many jobs will that create?” Not “How will this plant or permit impact our environment?” In the past, and sadly even today, any job created in the state is welcomed with open arms. A lot of these jobs here today came to our state because we had and still have lax environmental regulations.
Well, times have changed in our country, but has our state changed, or do we still have the old mantra, there are no bad jobs? Let’s consider a few facts for a moment. Fact number one, the country is at full employment, and there are over 6,000,000 want ads out there looking for workers. In other words, if you have a pulse, you can find a job. Fact number two, there are good jobs to recruit and there are bad jobs. Fact number three, obviously, we should recruit just the good jobs, but we aren’t. First, let’s talk about what are bad jobs. I guess it’s a gimme to say that if a job has a negative impact on the air, water, and land in the state, it sure doesn’t come out as a job we want to recruit. Of course, the hog farm on the Buffalo River Watershed flashes before my eyes, but of course that not the only source of bad jobs. What about a Chinese pulp mill? You can’t process pulp without some pollution, and we already do our Nation’s share of pulp wood processing. The Chinese pulp mill is five miles from Arkadelphia, and unless the Chinese have come up with a non-polluting paper mill, you can’t process pulp without some pollution. Just for a moment visualize all those Chinese who wear masks because their air is so polluted, and then consider them building a pulp plant in Arkansas. Anyone who has been anywhere within 20 miles of a paper mill knows the smell. I’ve even smelled the mill near Pine Bluff in Little Rock, So when the fans sitting in the stands during the football “Battle for the Ravine” get a whiff of paper processing that will make them want to gag, will they just say, “Oh, wonderful. It smells like jobs and money!” No, at that moment most of the folks are going to say “stinking paper mill.” I think you get the idea. There are good jobs and a polluting plant’s jobs aren’t good jobs. I opposed that paper mill when Union County was in the running for the plant, and a few years back when Union County was close to getting a new maximum security prison, I and others opposed it.
I think you get the idea, but the more important point is what and where are the good jobs? The jobs we should go after. Let’s consider one more fact. There are thousands of skilled high-tech workers who live in mega-cities, and they want out. Some are looking to early retire and other have had the traffic, pollution, and the hectic 2 hour commutes have them looking to relocate. This is what they prefer. They want a smaller attractive town with a mild climate that offers them the amenities they have become accustom to having. The towns and states that attract these skilled individuals will be the towns and states that will prosper in the 21sr century.
However, the bad news is we have very few if any towns that have all of what these individuals want, but the good news is the items they want are the same things we want. These are the quality of life perks everyone wants. These skilled individuals have jobs and the last thing on their list is an empty industrial park. Actually, our state has dozens of vacant or near vacant industrial park that should be turned into a quality subdivision, which would be attractive to these skilled workers. But let’s cut to the chase. These skilled workers want good entertainment, quality restaurants, good schools, an attractive downtown, and a low crime rate. So let’s get after it and stop trying to win the jobs lottery, and cut out the junkets to China etc. if we really want to have a growing and vital town, we will spend what it takes to create these amenities, and use our resources wisely. If we don’t, many of our towns will slowly waste away until their schools close, and they are merged with a bigger school district. In a few years many of these towns will actually cease to exist. But there are ways to stem the outflow.
El Dorado, hired Roger Brooks, a destination expert from Seattle to turn the city around, and that is exactly what MAD, the Murphy Art’s District folks are trying to do. Mr. Brooks said, “If a town doesn’t become a destination for people to visit, it will slowly lose population and one day cease to exist.”
The results so far are encouraging. The opening of Phase One, the Griffin Restaurant, MAD Amphitheater, and MAD Music Hall drew crowds larger than the population of El Dorado, and these folks came from far and wide. Phase One is still a work in progress and the largest children’s PlayScape in the state will open on May 15th. Phase Two will add a new 8000 square foot art museum art with display arrangements from regional and national museums. The final part of the project will be the renovation of the crown jewel, the Rialto Theater, which will be a Lincoln Center quality Vaudeville and Broadway Play venue. MAD is the key to attract the skilled tech professional who will move to El Dorado, reverse the population drain, and, create jobs.
No, you’re right, every town in the state can’t be an entertainment destination, but our state has such an abundance of natural beauty that by focusing our efforts and building on that natural beauty, we could make our state truly the Natural State and thus provide many of the amenities these skilled workers are looking for. Yes, that would eliminate those junkets to China and Europe, and countless other lottery level pursuits we see our towns wasting money on. If we use our limited funds wisely to enhance our towns, we will not only attract these skilled workers who will create jobs, we will increase the quality of life for all of us.
Jobs, But Not Just Any Job