What’s Wrong With El Paso

One time a guy called me up. I took a meeting with him at the Mexican Cottage.

He was a good looking guy, strong chin, a long mane of black hair. He brought his girlfriend, and she was a fox, and her hair was some other shade than God intended, blue or pink. I don’t recall, exactly.

This guy was a computer guy who specialized in UX, user interface, and he’d been working on a model for El Paso. There were some problems with his product, like Pay to Play, but there was no denying that the guy was brilliant.

And I, obviously, was not the first person that this guy had pitched his idea to. He wasn’t coming to me for seed money. Hell, a big investment for me is a handle of Cazadores. But the guy was frustrated, and he thought I knew something.

He could have been wrong.

He told me that he had pitched his idea to the Borderplex Alliance, and they had suggested that he rent some space in the Mills Building, or maybe one of the other office towers in town. It’s been a while.

Maybe, the implication was, that if he rented some space in the Mills Building, the Borderplex Alliance might be able to help him out.

Economic Development in El Paso is a closed game. If you’re not in with the right people, all the doors are closed to you.

What do you expect turning Economic Development over to the private sector?

Do you think that any of the members of the Borderplex Alliance, nee Paso del Norte Group, are going to let some upstart take a seat at the table?

Those 2012 Quality of Life bonds weren’t for El Paso. They were for the cabal. The Paso del Norte Group. And if El Paso had prospered as a result of those bond projects, sure, there would have been enough prosperity for everyone.

But El Paso didn’t prosper, and now all El Pasoans are getting from those bonds are more taxes.

Here’s what one of the local anti-corruption crusaders said about El Paso’s business practices back in an interview with the El Paso Inc. back in 2009:

Scholarly work has shown that the higher the level of corruption the lower the growth rate, the lower the investment, the lower the gross city product. There is a very strong correlation there.

When I look at corruption, it is not the dollars that get exchanged that cause the economic damage those dollars are relatively small.

The true cost of corruption is the cost of a noncompetitive process, whether it is paying for goods you don’t need, paying more for goods that you do need, or failing to help create an environment that produces companies that can compete here and ultimately outside El Paso.

. . .

If the procurement process is not driven by qualitative analysis of who is offering the most for the least, and it is based on relationships instead, then two things happen.

One, you reduce the level of competition. Those who are unwilling to compete on a relationship basis decide they are going to go somewhere else because, no matter how good they are, they are not going to be successful.

So the government entity is going to pay more for the product, which means the tax rates are going to be higher.

Two, where do you get high-skill, high-paying jobs? You find them in the headquarters of businesses that have become regionally, nationally and globally competitive.

And, if you want those kind of firms headquartered here, you have to have an environment that helps build them.

Becoming regionally, nationally and internationally competitive starts with being competitive in your own local market, which means you are producing the most for the best price.

If you have an environment where the procurement process is based on relationships, then the firms organize that way and, while they may have the ability to gain business within the local market, their ability to find business outside the local market is going to be impaired.

You also have a misallocation of resources. Corruption will cause government to spend in ways it would otherwise not.

In other words, they will find areas where the potential for corruption is higher, so they will buy goods and services that might have low value to the taxpayers but mean a transfer of compensation for them.

I don’t know what happened to that anti-corruption crusader. Maybe he realized that the problem was too big and too entrenched to be solved. Maybe he decided that he didn’t want to pick a fight with his social circle. (Of course, he’s always welcome to come hang out with me.) Maybe he figured that he could just keep slapping his name on his philanthropic projects and we could forget who he used to be. Maybe he fell in with bad company.

Maybe he got old and his dick got limp. No disrespect intended. What I mean to say is that as we get older, we might decide that yesterday’s dragons are today’s windmills. I can sympathize.

Whatever. The bottom line is that El Paso is a closed town, and the cats running the city are choking its growth.

I can’t come up with another explanation for why there’s so little economic development in El Paso.

6 comments

  1. Forget the Cazadores, tastes like prickly pear cactus. Try 100 Annos or Pueblo Viejo (gotta go to Mexico for it). No cure for El Paso except that, one of these days, investors will conclude it may be fucked up but, like a Juarez whore, it’s still a bargain.

    1. I am a big fan of Pueblo Viejo, but, like you said, it’s not widely available around here. Those Sauza Tequilas are made using the diffuser process, where the inulins are extracted from the plant chemically before cooking to produce the sugars that are converted into ethanol. Diffusing is an industrial process. The tequila might be perfectly good, but I’m going to pretend I’m too much of a purist to promote it.

      My go-to tequila these days is Cuervo Tradicional (Silver), $19.51 a liter at the Side Door Liquor Store, seven days a week.

      If Tradicional is a diffuser tequila, please don’t tell me. Ignorance, like tequila, is bliss.

      1. You are clearly working with more information than I have. Diffuser? I thought that’s what the Iranians use to enrich uranium.

  2. THIS HAS BEEN THE COMPLAINT SINCE PANCHO VILLA WAS SWILLING BOOZE DOWNTOWN. FIRST IT WAS THE GOOD OLE WHITE BOYS, NOW IT’S THE GOOD OLE MEXICAN BOYS. EL PASO DOES NOT HAVE MUCH TO OFFER. TOURISTS CAME HERE TO GO TO JUAREZ, THAT IS DEAD(EXCUSE THE PUN) FOR THE FORSEEABLE FUTURE. OUR BEST MANUFACTURERS ABANDONED US FOR MEXICO. WE ARE LEFT WITH RESTAURANTS AND WAREHOUSES. USED TO BE MILITARY, MEXICO AND MEDICAL. MILITARY IS STILL STRONG AND MEDICAL, THANKS TO TEXAS TECH(AND A LITTLE PANDEMIC), IS THRIVING. OUR FOUR YEARS OF THE TRUMP ADMIN SAW EL PASO MOVING FORWARD…NOW WHO KNOWS.

    1. Mr. Ingle, it’s not a brown boys/white boys thing. It’s not a Democrat/Republican thing. It’s a rich people/poor people thing. Guess which side gets to decide.

      Also, Pancho Villa was a teetotaler. He liked ice cream.

      Let’s not let the facts get in the way of your preconceived notions.

      Have a nice day.

      Rich

  3. TDI, Jr.: Please don’t shout at us. Rich, as usual, I think you have pretty well summed it up. Look at what is going on in Albuquerque or Tucson. Then, look at El Paso. We, the citizens and residents, have no input, and until we choose to spend our money elsewhere (i. e., move away), we will have no voice. Some folks, who do control things around here, are perfectly happy with the status quo, and until they change, we won’t.

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