February 07, 2004
Governor exaggerates job growth

Look around! There's new jobs everywhere, created by the sheer force of Governor Perry's will. At least, that's what he says.

Gov. Rick Perry says he has reeled in more than 10,000 jobs since 2003 by luring big business and big events to Texas.

The most-talked-about catch is the Toyota plant being built in San Antonio. Perry parlayed that success into a $295 million appropriation from the Legislature for his office to put together incentive packages to land even bigger corporate prizes.

But a close examination of Perry's claims of creating jobs in Texas raises questions about some of the numbers.

Of the 1,221 Houston-area positions on a list of projects bringing jobs to Texas issued by the governor's office, some are not new. And some jobs may never even materialize.

The "Lucy Exhibit" -- 5-million-year-old fossils of a prehistoric ancestor dubbed "Lucy" that was discovered 30 years ago in Ethiopia -- will come to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in 2006, according to the governor's office of economic development and tourism.

The governor's office claims the "Lucy Exhibit" will create 46 jobs in Houston, such as hiring an exhibit manager, curator and extra ticket sellers. It will also generate an economic impact of $7 million as tourists rush to see the early hominid.

But that's all news to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which is supposed to be hosting the exhibit.

"We don't have signed contracts yet," said a surprised Lydia Baehr, director of public relations for the museum.

In fact, the museum is still negotiating the deal.

As for the 46 new jobs or $7 million economic impact? Baehr said she has no idea where the governor's office got those figures. She said they have no idea how many jobs might be created -- if the deal can be successfully consummated.

At a guess, I'd say they got that $7 million figure from the same place as the $300 million Super Bowl impact numbers.

Quest Diagnostics is another company on the governor's list -- 500 jobs created.

But the company says the 500 jobs aren't new. The firm -- which tests blood, urine and other bodily specimens for doctors, hospitals and employers -- had three offices in Houston and consolidated its operations into one center.

"Net job gain? There is none," said Quest spokesman Gary Samuels. The new facility gives the company room to work more efficiently.

And if the company had not been able to find a bigger space to lease, would it have moved to Los Angeles or Phoenix, two big cities frequently mentioned as attractive relocation sites for Texas companies?

No, said Samuels. "We're already there."

Health care is a regional business, he said. Doctors and hospitals don't want to truck specimens from Houston to New Mexico so the company has 30 major labs in the United States including facilities in Dallas and San Antonio.

[Deputy chief of staff for Perry Phil] Wilson remembers the story differently. He said that when Quest Diagnostics contacted state officials about a possible package of financial incentives last spring, the company indicated it might leave Texas.

In addition, Wilson said, the company reported it had 355 employees in Houston and planned to add 150 more over the next five years if it stayed.

In the end, Quest never submitted a formal proposal for incentive funds to remain in Houston and never received any, Wilson said.

So the company made what turned out to be a phony threat to leave the state if it didn't get some taxpayer-funded swag, the Governor's office ignored it (to its credit, I must say), and when nothing happened as expected, all of the existing and projected employees were counted as newly-created jobs. This is what's known as How To Succeed In Government Without Really Trying.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 07, 2004 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack

I think Rick Perry should run for president. The nation needs his job creating and hair combing skills.

Posted by: Tek_XX on February 8, 2004 1:06 AM