The Fight for Jobs in Salinas

Dan Oney
Editor of PublicCEO.com

There may be tough economic times, but that can serve as the impetus for local governments to make tough choices. Some find ways cuts; others find ways of growing revenues, and that doesn’t always mean raise taxes.

In Salinas, unemployment remains a pervasive problem. So when once of the area’s major employers began strategically reviewing its assets and portfolios that made Mayor Dennis Donohue wonder how that could impact Salinas. On Thursday, he launched Salinas for Jobs, a business retention and attraction campaign. As part of his drive for economic development, Salinas for Jobs, working with companies like HSBC and others, hopes to create thousands of jobs in the private industry, and thereby increase the city’s tax base by tens of millions of dollars.

The Credit Card Division of HSBC bank current employs as many as 1,000 people in Salinas, but the recent announcement that the bank was conducting a strategic review of its global interests, including those in Salinas, have forced Salinas to examine their own strategic initiatives. Salinas has a strong partnership between the lending industry and the region’s agricultural and innovative communities.

"We understand that HSBC has the right to control its affairs," said Mayor Donohue. "But we believe that the Salinas Valley is the perfect home for a credit company."

With its agriculture industry accounting for more than $4 billion per year in direct economic activity, Salinas and Monterey County form the backbone of California’s Fresh Network. With a long-established international network of producers, consumers and service providers, Salinas and Monterey County are arguably the backbone of California’s agriculture network and a leader in the global market. But being in the center of a world-leading agricultural industry isn’t the only advantage Salinas offers.

"We’re less than 60 miles from the innovation hub of Silicon Valley," said Mayor Donohue. "And frankly, we intend to reach out to the banks and make our case about the value of investing in Salinas."

Mayor Donohue’s effort to Keep Salinas Jobs in Salinas is bolstered by the inclusion of Steve Keitz, a financial advisor with the Woodbury Advisors, and Lon Hatamiya, the former Secretary of the California Technology, Trade, and Commerce Agency. Together, these leaders are leading an effort that is intended, in part, to protect the jobs of as many as 1,000 people who currently work at the HSBC headquarters. These well-paying, middle class jobs are in fields such as management, operations, and analysis. Their loss would have a dramatic effect in Salinas. Recruiting more would benefit the entire area.

Salinas for Jobs hopes to increase awareness both of the impacts that changes in employers could have on the Tri-Counties region and the benefits for new companies investing in the area.

"HSBC has been a major community partner over the years, supporting events like the Relay for Life and the California Rodeo," said Mayor Donohue. "The HSBC brand has stood for value in the banking world and has proven that throughout the Central Coast Community."

Their involvement as a community partner reflects HSBC’s Group Values and Business Principles of good corporate citizenship. According to the HSBC website, the company takes "responsibility for the social and environmental impacts of decisions… (and a) commitment to the welfare of communities and the environment."

"We have no knowledge of an impending sale or closure of HSBC. But their strategic review forces us to review our own strategic interests. We realize that if we were to lose one employer, another company could position themselves strategically in Salinas. They would benefit from skilled Salinas workers, our community and values, as well as our alignment with agriculture and technology industries. That established, global network associated with food production, food safety, and energy efficiency, would benefit any industry and particularly credit," said Mayor Donohue. "That is the value of Salinas. Our belief is that if we sit around and wait to see what happens, that’s not a good idea."

HSBC is Europe’s largest bank and recently announced that it was conducting a strategic review of its global assets and portfolios, including its $33 billion credit portfolio

The 2010 Census reported Salinas as having a population of 150,441. The city has an unemployment rate of nearly 18%.

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