How important is education to our community?
by Robert “Bob” Jackson, Mayor, Casa Grande
I know I talk frequently about this issue to various groups but I cannot understate how important it is to our community. To keep Casa Grande healthy we need to continue to attract new industries and encourage existing businesses to expand. The key to both of these goals is a strong work force.
Strong work forces don’t happen by accident, they are a product of a good education system. We are lucky in Casa Grande to have a good elementary school system, an improving high school system, a strong CAVIT [editor’s note: Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology] program and Central Arizona College that offers not only two year degree programs and job specific training but also limited four year degree programs.
If you wonder the value of education, I recently found the following information in a magazine* dedicated to economic development. The average annual income for:
A high school dropout: $20,329
A high school graduate: $28,659
Those with an Associate’s Degree: $36,853
Those with a Bachelor’s Degree: $49,648
Those with a Master’s Degree: $60,709
The incomes are based on 2013 information and it certainly depends on career choices but the message is clear the more education you have the higher your income level is likely to become. Think about the difference between a high school dropout and a two year degree from a community college like CAC. Over a 30 year working career (and most are probably closer to 40) the difference amounts to almost a half a million dollars!
In Pinal County CAC has a program called Promise for the Future that provides every student an opportunity to have a free education. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of the potential to make more money in your lifetime?
One of the trends we are seeing in Casa Grande is more new businesses coming to town wanting a highly trained work force and paying higher wages. If our work force cannot keep up with the demand we will no longer be able to attract new, higher paying jobs to the area. The ripple effect is less spendable income that will affect many of the jobs in retail and tourism.
Local economies are complex and our goal is to provide more available dollars to the area with a goal of driving new small business opportunities as well. We recently announced a new company coming to town, Tractor Supply Company. They are proposing to hire up to 270 new employees with starting wages in the $30,000 range. This is over $8 million in our local economy due to wages alone. Think about the restaurant owner that is always looking for new business, some of the new money may help them expand their business and put someone else to work.
College is not for everyone but jobs like Tractor Supply are going to become more available over the next decade in Casa Grande. They will require at a minimum a high school degree or equivalent. We need to make sure we have the work force ready to take the jobs and continue to grow our local economy.
* Sept. 2013 American City and County Magazine, the Economic Analysis and Areas, Research Network at the Economic Policy Institute.