San Angelo City Manager Daniel Valenzuela invoked hope eternal in last week's state of the city speech at the West Texas Training Center, once the site of a Levi Strauss manufacturing plant. Prior to Daniel's arrival three local organizations, Angelo State University, Howard College and San Angelo Independent School District, collaborated to develop the West Texas Training Center with state and local government support. Today Howard College occupies the whole facility. It is now Howard's main San Angelo campus, which in the process of adding buildings.
Valenzuela nailed our city's growth. The first oil boom brought San Angelo The Cactus Hotel. The current oil boom has hotels and apartment complexes exploding. Unmentioned were deadly traffic accidents and soaring crime. Valenzuela cited airport deplanings, but omitted jail bookings.
He did note the impact of oilfield on hiring city workers:
When it comes to attracting and retaining high-quality employees, the City of San Angelo is no different than any other employer in this room. It’s a challenge, if not a downright struggle. That’s especially true of workers who are good with their hands, with tools and with heavy pieces of equipment. The City of San Angelo is desperate to hire that talent … but so is the oilfield. While we can’t compete with oilfield wages, we can offer stability and, this year, a more attractive salary.
Daniel didn't mention that the city is no longer trying to hire a number of positions, janitors, electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, veterinarians and storm water engineers. It seeks to contract them out, which provides no stability, no long term security, no benefits like retirement or health insurance. I believe many of our region's oilfield jobs are contractor positions with no benefits. What happens to local healthcare facilities when jobs, city and otherwise, provide no health coverage?
The shiny vision offered by Daniel Valenzuela may end up like the original West Texas Training Center. It will morph into something else. Rest assured our growth will not benefit everyone and citizens already feel the unmentioned dark side. Truth telling is one mark of a leader. Balance is another.