37-Years-or so ago, what used to be the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce was saying that Campbell Soup had around 2400 employed in Paris,
The plant’s employment is around one-third of that now.
Over these 37-or so years, Paris has lost more industrial jobs than we’ve created, and our current struggle is to show that employment is increasing.
Unfortunately, our nation is now creating economic enslavement, as the national policy is a partnership between big business and big government, which does not encourage new small business, mom and pop type entrepreneurial start-ups.
And there’s a painful world of difference between a good job and a below-existence wage.
Employment includes all kinds of jobs and, over the years, we’ve created too many jobs where wages have have not matched inflation. Today, it takes two or more family members holding jobs to support a single household, whereas a few years ago a majority of households were supported by a one-wage earner. Add to the employment numbers a growing list of retired persons – who count their efforts at raising cattle or truck farming or doing part-time jobs as “self-employed” – into the total number of employed and the word loses part of it’s meaning.
It’s not the number of jobs, but the kind of jobs, we should be worried about.
A short walk around downtown offers an unmistakable reminder of the ambition that Paris used to possess, and the reality that confronts us now. Once off the Plaza, there are vacant and boarded-up beautiful relics from the city’s early 20th-century heyday — deteriorating more every day…
Similar signs of distress present themselves in large areas of our neighborhoods.
Absolutely, there are signs of life around the Loop and a few areas, even in the beleaguered downtown, including rehab work on some of the landmark buildings and construction of a new park or two (but we’re giving up on and tearing down too much to see real progress).
There is no one reason for Paris’ demise; over the years, there was a whole series of flawed decisions, driven primarily by well-meaning but overzealous officials who lacked the ability to take any kind of a long view. “Everybody wants a villain,” said a Paris Chamber’s supporter. “And there isn’t one.”
Basically, past community leaders tried to do the right thing, just as those of today want to do the right thing.
But anymore, no one seems to know what is ‘the right thing’ to do. And Paris seems afraid to take action on anything that requires a break from how ‘its always been done.”
Paris will not admit defeat, tally up the wrongs of the past, try to set them right and then move on. Indeed, there is an emotional cost to our problems that can’t immediately be squared away on paper in the same way the city does its budget. Too many citizens will not acknowledge how much of what Paris has done – and is doing – has demoralized the people in this community.
Now, we’re being asked to transfer economic development responsibility to the city. It’s like we’re giving up on progress. IF the city could do it, why did citizens think they needed the PEDC back in 1993? If the city can do it, why haven’t they? .
The Paris Chamber worries that future public officials whom residents elect (voted in by an increasing distrustful citizenry), will also not stick to any efforts for real progress. Citizens are skeptical for good reason — they’ve been misled before by financial and policy decisions that have turned Paris into a sinking ship.