Tom Henry

Newsroom Editor


We don’t just need more jobs, we need good jobs

Saturday, October 28, 2017

“Hi ho, Hi ho, its off to work we go!” from the movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

“Another day another dollar,” by Wynn Stewart.

“Its time to make the donuts,” Fred the Baker (played by actor Michael Vale) in commercials for Dunkin’ Donuts from 1981 to 1997.

How many of you can relate to working so hard, for so long and so many days straight that you feel like collapsing and at times question whether you are coming or going?

Truthfully, it’s not all that unique, but it is a shame when that becomes your way of life. It’s a shame when an adult’s dreams are murdered because their lives are no more that making the donuts – for peanuts. Times get tough and the tough go to work!

Infinitely sadder and more shameful is when children can no longer dream. Children are born dreamers. Children are made to dream big! In fact, children are supposed to dream crazy big! When they cease to dream, it is because something was killed inside of them. Sadly, I have witnessed children in this city, even with both parents working full time, struggling financially and unable to hope of crazy dreams for their own life (such going to college, being a doctor or becoming President). That’s unforgivable and it doesn’t have to be that way!

I was honored to be invited to attend Nucor Arkansas’ 25th Anniversary celebration Thursday afternoon and I was amazed to learn that there are approximately 50 employees employed there today that have been there since the day the place opened.

What makes someone stay at the same job for 25 years? Well for me it would have to be a place that pays at least a “living wage” and a job that is meaningful and full of purpose. All other jobs would merely be “until something better comes along!”

All working families deserve electricity, heat and air, water, food, clothes, access to medical care (at least when things get really bad) and a minimum of luxury (internet, television and phone). A car would be nice. I’m angry that many of us don’t.

All children should have access to college if the student works hard and makes good grades. And ultimately, if an employee busts their tails for 25 years, they should have a decent retirement. They should not be as broke at retirement age as they were the day they began their first job.

The fact that so many older people must lose everything that they have acquired after a life of hard work and must go on Medicaid in order to “afford” a doctor or a nursing home is criminal. And for the other “lucky ones”, the fact that so many elderly HAVE TO reverse mortgage their homes to get through their growing retirement years is criminal as well.

The difference between those happy few that have jobs like at Nucor where they make enough to afford all of their “needs” and more than a few of their “wants” and the majority of us that have to “rob Peter to pay Paul” each month because there is more month than monthly pay, is the type of jobs they possess.

Blytheville is very lucky to have as many retail and hospitality jobs as it currently has and hopefully there will be even more in the near future (particularly more diverse restaurants and a movie theater). But those jobs are entry-level positions, intended to be first jobs or jobs for youth – they shouldn’t have to be career positions. They are honest work and honorable jobs, but they should not be the highest job a person can attain after a lifetime of hard work.

Blytheville needs jobs with companies that make things. Real manufacturing jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefit packages sufficient for area families to rise out of poverty through their hard work and merit. But those jobs aren’t coming within the city proper and I don’t blame them. We haven’t created an environment for them.

We must create an environment where there are more good jobs inside the city limits! We don’t just need jobs. We need good jobs that people can get to and that aren’t 20 minutes away by car. Remember, some don’t have cars. The city needs the additional revenue and with more good jobs, comes an increase in disposable income that will grow the retail and hospitality markets and bring in even more revenue.

So how do we get these good jobs? It’s simple, but not easy. First we have to make the city safe. We also have to educate our workforce and children so we are capable of meeting the labor needs of the industries we wish to attract. We must improve our infrastructure so that we can support their basic needs as well. We need to improve our quality of life through cleaner neighborhoods and we need a more vibrant cultural life. We also have to reduce taxes rather than continuing to find reasons to raise them.

Companies WILL take a risk and invest in us, once they see that we invest in ourselves in ways that meet those six things intelligently. But if all they see are slick words and empty promises, they will never come.