Letters: Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Risky Business

To the editor: The story about development in East and Southeast Fort Worth (“Hotseat for Hicks,” Sept. 13, 2006) danced all around the problems of economic development in these areas but never touched on the real problem.

Regardless of who is investing in East and Southeast Fort Worth, there is tremendous risk involved. Starbucks, Target, and even big-box retailers like Wal-Mart are in business to make money. They are not about economic development, neighborhood revitalization, or any kind of altruistic endeavor. Before any of those businesses considers opening a store, the managers look at the surrounding neighborhood and answer some very basic questions.

Is there a market for their product or service in the target area? Will there be enough business to sustain operations at a profit? Obviously the residents of East/Southeast Fort Worth have income, needs, and means for buying groceries and other consumer-related products. As Ms. Hicks mentioned, residents often drive 20 minutes (in almost any direction!) just to shop for groceries. Needs and means are not the problems plaguing development in these areas.

Is there a trained and ready workforce, one that shares the core values held by the company? What will be the “cost of doing business” in the area? The answers to these questions, which the story never touched on, represent the largest hurdle developers must overcome if they are to see return on their investment. Large national retailers would already be operating in these areas if they could do so at a profit. They cannot. There is no local workforce available to tap into for companies looking to move into East/Southeast Fort Worth. If there is no reliable source of trained employees, training costs can literally drive companies out of business. The East/Southeast Fort Worth area is littered with empty retail buildings, in part because it just plain costs too much to do business in these areas.

This area is no “Field of Dreams,” where, if you develop it, they will come. It is time for Devoyd Jennings, the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce, Bryan Muhammad, and other community leaders and groups to implement programs that help prepare people for employment — programs that give employees basic skills, like how to greet customers, how to check a customer out, count back change, answer the phone in a professional manner. The businesses that are successful today are customer-driven, and potential employees, especially those in under-served areas, need to be exposed to the values and benefits of such environments.

If programs like that don’t exist, then the chamber, local businesses, or churches need to take the initiative to find business leaders, working or retired, who can develop and implement such programs. East/Southeast Fort Worth is not unique in this problem — there are urban areas all over the United States that could benefit from such an approach to bringing in and sustaining development. What would a model for redevelopment like that be worth in today’s business environment?

It is time to stop engaging in the risky business of playing the “race card,” which is clearly divisive, as the story illustrates. Only by being honest and open about the realities of the situation can programs be crafted that address the real problems.

History shows that success begets success. Not bickering. Not infighting. Not personal agendas. Not politics. Success — that’s what East/Southeast Fort Worth needs, and lots of it!

Roby B. McEuen

Fort Worth

Get With the Program

To the editor: Betty Brink’s “Lost in the Ozone” (Sept. 6, 2006) is another one of her must-read renditions, particularly for parents who are concerned about their children’s health. Ms. Brink gave us some broad brushstrokes of information as to the lies and fraud the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality perpetuates with their collusive lobbyists. It’s a “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy that may change due to your exposé of legislative favors granted to the behemoth cement plants.

Why are our tax bucks supporting these agencies if their primary objective is to be lackadaisical in enforcement? Why create a bureau when they are on a virtual strike, yet want their paychecks and amenities? Putting millions of people’s lives and health in jeopardy goes beyond ignorance.

So while the plants and agencies engage in a finger-pointing exercise, with their Rolodex of excuses at their fingertips, the public has to breathe in the pollutants, courtesy of the Midlothian plants.

Fort Worth Weekly, you have brought this pervasive problem to limelight status, and with your continued vigilance the EPA will finally get with the program. They should at least do it for our children, for they are the future.

Dee Taylor

Fort Worth

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