Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stopped in El Paso Thursday afternoon to meet with business leaders to talk about the region’s and the state’s economic successes.
After the closed-door roundtable discussion with local business leaders, the Republican governor spoke to the media about the growing diversity of the state’s economy beyond oil and gas to include becoming a national leader in the fields of finance, health care, agriculture, semiconductors and manufacturing.
As for El Paso, he mentioned a new 160,000-square-foot Schneider Electric manufacturing plant, which is part of a $100 million regional investment, and a new $150 million, 2 million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center for Marshalls’ clothing stores. Both will bring about 1,500 new jobs to the El Paso area.
“Bottom line is (these) jobs will help the El Paso area,” Abbott said.
Along with the economy, Abbott talked briefly about the Nov. 8 election pitting him against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso.
The governor also talked about the border inspections he ordered in El Paso and at the other ports of entry in Texas this past April in an effort to curtail the number of undocumented immigrants and drugs that enter the country. He said the average five-hour wait times for the commercial trucks at the ports were minimal compared to the 18-month delay of the Biden administration to secure the border.
“What we’re trying to do is address these challenges,” said Abbott, who clarified that the goal of the state’s Department of Public Safety was to inspect vehicles. As a result, he said lives may have been saved because of the many unlicensed drivers and unsafe vehicles that did not enter the country. However, he did not provide examples of how the operation saved lives.
Tom Fullerton, professor of economics and finance at the University of Texas at El Paso, said in an interview with El Paso Matters that the decision in April 2022 to lock down the border to search for drugs and migrants caused difficulties for multiple companies in El Paso and others that do business in El Paso.
“The reversal of that policy has definitely removed an important obstacle to regional business performance,” Fullerton said. “Many businesses in El Paso complained about the governor’s action because it hampered the local economy.”
Fullerton said that while fuel and housing prices remain high, overall economic conditions remain good in El Paso. However, he added, as interest rates continue to increase, economic deceleration will occur and the borderplex region may fall into a recession.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported in August 2022 that El Paso continued an economic upswing in July. Among its other indicators, unemployment remained low by historic comparisons, 4.7% in June and July 2022, but still above pre-pandemic levels. Those percentages are above the state’s (4%) and U.S. (3.5%) levels.