No easy fix for area’s low pay

Given this community’s long history of low wages that continues today, it’s no surprise so many of Mesa County’s brightest young people move elsewhere to find work. Who wants to stay here when, even with a college education, you might find yourself working hard to support a family while still qualifying for public assistance?

As the article by Greg Ruland in Sunday’s Daily Sentinel makes clear, that is the case with far too many people in the county today. A young, single parent with two young children who makes the average annual wage for this community — $38,480 — would be $1,500 short of covering her family’s basic needs but would not qualify for public assistance, according to the Mesa County Department of Human Services. Thousands of people locally make less than the average annual wage.

Local business people and government officials have been aware of the problems for decades, and have been involved in multiple efforts to try to improve local wages. Retraining programs through Colorado Mesa University and the Mesa County Workforce Center are part of those efforts. So is the ongoing mission of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership to attract new businesses offering good-paying jobs and to help existing businesses expand their operations and workforce.

Still, Ruland’s reporting should be a reminder to local business leaders and government officials that the efforts to improve jobs and wages in this community must be ongoing, especially during an economic downturn. Failure to do so means increased direct costs to local taxpayers in the form of more public assistance, not to mention the incalculable cost of driving young people to other locales to obtain sustainable wages.


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