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A Jesse Jackson at a Des Moines steelworkers rally “Even if you got a comparable [manufacturing] job in the Valley, here even in the Valley you would be [earning] more than that. That’s my impression. We decided it wasn’t something we should go into,” says Guevara. Certain people in the community, he says, “think a job is as good as another. [But with that kind of] poverty wages, we’re not doing that much of a service to the people.” Sonia Walsh, director of the Brownsville Texas Workforce Commission office, which is currently processing Titan applications, confirmed that the company’s stated pay rate was $6 and $7 per hour after training. “A lot of the people who apply are for instance auto mechanics,” said Walsh, “who actually may be making $8, $9, $10 an hour now, but they want the health insurance.” Titan’s Brownsville manager Chuck Smith says that production workers will eventually earn more than $6 and $7, but that it’s too early to make any specific predictions. As it stands, at forty hours a week, the workers will earn $12,500 to $14,500 per year, well under the eligibility cap for food stamps for a family of three. At these pay levels, Titan will be further subsidized by the public assistance dollars its workers receive. In the Rio Grande Valley, though, low wages and the absence , of unions are a lure to new business, which is perhaps why pay levels don’t seem to be of great concern to the Brownsville Economic Development Council. The BEDC website all but advertises the region’s discount labor force, emphasizing the youthful labor pool, the high unemployment rate, the fact that Texas is a “right to work” state, and Brownsville’s “less than one percent unionization.” Funded by a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 1991, the BEDC and the five-member board of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation distribute $3 to $4 million per year in loans and incentives to businesses. While GBIC loan and incentive amounts are not enormous, the Economic Development Council also helps companies get other loans, tax abatements, and grants from local and state sources. So far, companies that have received incentives have provided 1,924 jobs. It seems, however, that not much attention is paid to the nature of the jobs. \(An employer’s wage rates are “part of the matrix” used by the council to judge whether a company is incentive-worthy, said the BEDC President Marie McDermott declined to be interviewed for this story \(“We don’t feel that that would really be to our advantage,” said can get a feel for the organization’s personality by peeking inside its headquarters. The office is not located in Brownsville’s run-down but commercially vibrant downtown, but on Highway 77, just north of the Best Western. Inside the homely building it occupies are commodious modern desks, cream-colored wing chairs, and a comfortable reception area, where the prospective economic developer may sit on the sofa and browse assorted periodicals: Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, Global Sites and Logistics, and Expansion Management, to name a few. To court corporations, apparently, you have to dress the part. Texas’ courtship of Titan began on the campaign trail, when Phil Gramm recommended to Taylor that he consider locating in the state. In 1996, Taylor flew down to Austin to meet with Governor George Bush, and Titan representatives toured South Texas soon thereafter. The company narrowed its site search to Lake Charles, Louisiana; Brownsville; and Harlingen and then down to Lake Charles and Brownsville. The Economic Development Council accordingly informed the company that Titan could expect to receive some $30 million in tax abatements and grants, should it choose to locate in Brownsville. The various taxing entities hadn’t actually voted on any abatements, but this wrinkle was to be worked out later. Titan’s selection of Brownsville that October was a coup for the BEDC, and Council president McDermott could barely contain herself in a welcoming letter to Titan: “The members of this community are overwhelmed with excitement about the possibilities of what this will mean to our lives,” she wrote. There must be something seductive about Morry Taylor, who had the BEDC so lathered up that it mailed off a letter to Titan stating that “the total incentive package of $30,134,353 is being provided from the various groups, entities, and agencies listed.” This was long before most of the various groups, entities, and agencies the list includes the city, the county, South Texas Independent School District, the Port of Brownsville, the state Department of Steelworkers Local 164 THE TEXAS OBSERVER’ 11 OCTOBER 9, 1998