Mayor: New investment helping border recover from economic blow of COVID-19

Border Report

New distribution centers, push to bring manufacturing operations from China will provide relief to workers torched by coronavirus-related layoffs, officials said

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Weeks after landing an Amazon fulfillment center, El Paso is now getting a $150 million distribution facility from TJX Companies.

The company — which operates TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods stores, among others — will hire 800 warehouse workers and 150 managerial employees over a five-year period, Mayor Dee Margo said Monday. El Paso is home to two TJ Maxx stores, four Marshalls stores and one Home Goods.

The distribution center eventually will encompass 1.7 million square feet at the corner of Global Reach and George Perry on El Paso International Airport land. The company has pledged to pay salaries 18% above the norm here, with warehouse staff getting $12.50 an hour and managers $32 and above, Margo said.

City Council approved $9 million in tax breaks and other incentives for TJX.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and this is so significant for our community. We’ve said we’re not going to reopen our economy; we’re going to have to rebuild it. And this starts that phase,” Margo said.

El Paso’s unemployment rate stood at a historically low 3.3% prior to the pandemic. It shot up to 15% in late spring but was last reported around 7.3%.

The mayor said a working group that includes the city, the county, the Borderplex Alliance, southern New Mexico and Juarez, Mexico leaders are collaborating on future economic development projects like the Amazon and TJX deals.

“The Borderplex is Mexico, El Paso and Southern New Mexico,” Margo said. “Something that’s located in Horizon or Santa Teresa (New Mexico) benefits El Paso because the employees will come from El Paso. We are expanding as a region and our economy improves as a region. That’s the way I sell.”

The El Paso-Juarez-Las Cruces area has a population of 2.7 million with El Paso being the principal port of entry for manufactured goods and components that U.S.-run companies assemble in Juarez. Southern New Mexico has one of the fastest-growing commercial ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border in Santa Teresa, just across the state line from El Paso.

Borderplex Alliance CEO Jon Barela talks about the El Paso-Juarez-Las Cruces region’s chances to draw multinational companies looking to relocate their operations in Asia closer to the United States. (photo by Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

“We know that people are still hurting but there’s hope in the horizon. We know we will lead the economic recovery not only in this country but in Mexico as well,” said Jon Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit that helps local government recruit new businesses.

Barela said regional leaders are trying to convince multinational companies with manufacturing operations in China to relocate to the border. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerability of bringing parts and supplies from far-away countries, as shortages were compounded by travel time and distance.

“We know we will lead the economic recovery, not only in this country but in Mexico as well,” Barela said. “Despite the crisis, we have an incredible opportunity in a post-COVID world, taking advantage of numerous reshoring opportunities from China and Asia as our supply chains become much more condensed.”

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego concurs that the region has the workforce and location to continue drawing the interest of more big companies. He also said the Amazon and TJX projects “come at the right time” in a community that’s still recovering from the shock and grief of the Aug. 3, 2019 mass shooting that left 23 people dead and 23 injured.

“We are going through difficult times,” he said. “(But) this is evidence that there is hope out there, that we are going to come out of the pandemic better than ever.”

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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