Hope Andrade had to pull the microphone down when she stepped up to the podium at Monday evening’s Business Appreciation Dinner, hosted by the Decatur Economic Development Corp. (EDC) at the Decatur Civic Center.
But with 490,000 Texas employers behind her, the diminutive lady from San Antonio is a giant in the Texas economy.
Andrade has an impressive resume in public service, having served five years on the Texas Transportation Commission and four years as Texas’ Secretary of State. But when Gov. Rick Perry appointed her to the Texas Workforce Commission in March of 2013, he placed the dynamic leader in her most natural role yet.
As an entrepreneur and leader in the San Antonio business community for more than three decades, Andrade served in leadership roles in the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Free Trade Alliance of San Antonio and the United Way. Along the way, she earned the San Antonio Business Journal’s Leadership Legacy Award, the San Antonio Leadership Hall of Fame Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
She was recently named the Small Business Advocate of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Monday, she came to Decatur to give local business people a pat on the back and a better appreciation of the important role they play.
“It’s a pleasure to join you in Decatur as we celebrate the many, many contributions of the area’s businesses to your community, this region, and ultimately, the great state of Texas,” she said.
She credited the EDC, the Chamber of Commerce and local leaders for working to create a positive business environment in Decatur.
“Your collective hard work and dedication to your community is a big part of why businesses here succeed, and I commend you for your hard work,” she said.
She said it’s all part of Texas’ continued economic success.
“Our state’s continued economic prosperity keeps me armed with impressive facts,” she said. She then proceeded to tick off a few:
- From 2000 to 2013, Texas had the highest job creation of any state in the U.S. – with more than half of them in the upper half of the pay scale.
- Texas created 348,000 jobs last year.
- More than one-quarter of all the private-sector jobs created in the United States in the last 10 years were in Texas.
- Texas’ unemployment rate of 5.2 percent is well below the national average of 6.3 percent – and Wise County’s rate is below that at 4.3 percent.
“I could go on all night about the great economic performance Texas is experiencing,” she said. “In fact, with the exception of my three amazing grandsons, Texas is my favorite topic.”
But, she noted, the state faces challenges as its workforce gets ready to top the 13 million mark.
“Growth and increased demands also bring new challenges,” she said. “We have to keep stepping up our game.”
A big focus of Andrade’s work is developing “human capital” – training workers to fill the needs of companies as they expand or move to Texas. In that role, she continues to encourage community colleges and employers to partner in training and hiring workers.
“In order for Texas to remain on top, to remain the leader, we must remain committed to developing a pipeline of skilled workers,” she said.
“Workforce is the No. 1 issue,” she added. “This is what’s keeping CEOs up at night – thinking about if they will have the workforce they need to meet their demands.”
Andrade said Decatur and Wise County’s Weatherford College campus are a perfect example of working together to create skilled workers to fill jobs.
“You have a strong partner in Weatherford College,” she said. “Community colleges are one of the most vital links in the workforce development chain.”
The ultimate goal, she said, is to assure that all Texas students are aware of the opportunities available in their communities – to learn and train for good jobs.
“A well-prepared workforce is the backbone of our state’s economy and the key to our current and future success,” she said.
She cited the Skill Development Fund – a program providing training opportunities for Texas businesses and workers, funded by the Texas Workforce Commission – which focuses on collaboration among businesses, public community and technical colleges, workforce development boards and economic development partners.
The program assists businesses and trade unions by financing the design and implementation of customized job-training projects and successfully merges business needs and local customized training opportunities into a winning formula to increase the skills levels and wages of the Texas workforce.
She also pointed out the great resource that veterans represent in the future Texas workforce, as they return from military service with not only job skills, but also a work ethic second to none.
“Assuring a prepared and successful workforce for our future is not a job one entity can accomplish on its own,” she said. “It’s a job for business, for workforce leaders, for educators – for communities like Decatur.”
“Texas is a job-creating machine,” she said. “Texas welcomes businesses, large and small, with open arms.”