We need jobs. That is hardly a groundbreaking statement. Just yesterday, Albanians learned about a new restaurant opening on Meredith that will occupy the building that used to be the Ordinary Coyote. This is good news, right?
While the new restaurant will no doubt be a boon for the owners, restaurants tend to hire part time, minimum wage employees. A quick calculation will show that jobs like that are hardly a recipe for getting this community out of poverty. These are ideal jobs for students working their way through school. They also make decent second jobs for people trying to get out of poverty when their first job just won’t cut it.
These aren’t careers that lend itself toward retirement.
Invariably, someone in our local government will hold this up as a sign of improvement, but it’s not. While we learned about the new place yesterday, we also reported that Albany’s unemployment rate increase by 0.8 percent from December 2012 despite Gander Mountain opening just the month before. So what happened?
Honestly, I don’t know. However, what we do know is that no amount of retail stores or restaurants will improve our community. Oh, we might snag some out-of-town dollars if people come in to eat at these restaurants, but so what? The owners will do well, which is fine. The managers will do well, which is also fine. However, we’re looking at more than just a handful of people’s welfare. The truth is, if we can get the right kind of jobs in our community, those people are going to do even better because there will be more potential customers.
What exactly are the right kind of jobs, then? Well, ideally, they’re the Miller and Procter & Gamble jobs. Manufacturing jobs tend to create the right kind of jobs to pull a workforce like we have in Albany out of the muck and mire. However, even I don’t think the City of Albany doesn’t realize this. Of course they know it. They just haven’t been very successful at landing those businesses.
So, let’s be a little more realistic, shall we?
There is one employer here in Albany that may be just what the doctor ordered. Teleperformance.
While Teleperformance has its issues, primarily with what has been reported as a fairly high turnover rate, it provides a good model for an industry that Albany can truly compete in.
For those who are unfamiliar with Teleperformance, it is a call center for high speed internet technical support. That’s right folks, some of those jobs are still in the United States, rather than India. However, Albany has some of the same advantages India has when trying to lure these types of companies.
Among those advantages is how we have a relatively low cost of living, and a relatively low median income. Sure, all of that is higher in Albany than in India, but we are still lower than most of the rest of the country. This is why we are considered to be one of the poorest communities in the nation. However, we can leverage that as a way to attract these employers to Albany.
When Teleperformance first opened (then called CallTech), it offered an attractive wage that had people lining up for the chance to get a job there. It wasn’t Miller or the MCLB kind of money, but still pretty good. It also didn’t require a great deal of education, though it did require employees to be able to speak clearly and professionally.
These jobs wouldn’t be an end, but a beginning. Most large employers have some kind of program where they will pay for college for an employee if there degree will benefit the company. For a tech support company, these will most likely be technical degrees in subjects like computer programming.
Ideally, this will lead to a pile of people that are now overqualified for tech support jobs. This fact can be used to lure software companies to Albany, eventually turning our community into the Silicon Valley of the East.
Now, this isn’t an overnight process, but it didn’t take overnight for us to get into this mess either. It’ll be a long process, but it will eventually help bring us up out of being one of the poorest communities and transform us into one of the fastest growing.
You tell me, which one would you rather be?