Jobs For El Paso: Report On Economic Development

EL PASO, Texas - While it was cold outside Monday, it was pretty warm inside a packed conference room on the 10th floor of El Paso City Hall.

City representatives and regional business leaders, also known as stakeholders, talked economic development during a special City Council meeting.

Actually, it was a consultant, Edward Feser, who did most of the talking.

Commissioned by the city, Feser recently interviewed local elected officials and prominent members of the business community, examining the way El Paso goes about attracting new companies and new jobs to the Sun City.

Feser told City Council he found that many feel the city and business leaders lack a joint strategy, and that the city is understaffed when it comes to economic development and doesn't always offer the "proper mix" of incentives to lure new companies.

Feser said some stakeholders also feel the city can be "hostile" toward business, with a City Council that some described as being too critical.

City Rep. Steve Ortega was quick to counter that, saying that many of the city council members are simply picking up the slack that's resulted from the current "vacuum" in the economic development department.

The consultant's report also revealed some believe that REDco, the Regional Economic Development Corporation, lacks legitimacy.

REDco President Bob Cook told ABC-7, for the most part, the corporation does receive the help it needs from other business organizations when developing strategy or recruiting companies.

"We do get very good support," Cook said, before adding, "But that's not always the case, and that's something that we have to address."

Richard Dayoub of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce said, if anything, Feser's report is helpful.

"It's always constructive to review what you're doing," he said. "Clearly, we have a lot of room for improvement."

Feser recommended that the city add and reorganize staffing for its economic development department, something City Manager Joyce Wilson said was already in the works and can now move forward with Feser's direction.

During Monday's meeting, City Council voted unanimously to direct the city manager's office to help in the creation of a "lead" economic development organization.

Feser recommended the new group be a partnership between the private and public sectors.

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