Madera City Council Member Robert Poythress reported Wednesday night during the council’s budget hearing that he had attended a meeting on the high-speed rail and finally heard “the truth.”
Representatives of the construction companies seeking to build the system told him that at most the number of jobs created, at least in the first phase which will be built in Madera County, would be about 700 to 1,000.
That’s a far cry from the 20,000 to 100,000 jobs that high-speed-rail backers told us would be created.
Most of us knew those claims were outrageously false, but few of us suspected the actual number of jobs would actually be fewer than the number of workers employed by Madera County.
And he also was told another fact — and again most of us knew this — that those who would fill those jobs likely would not be hired locally, but would be experts in placing and laying high-speed railroad track systems. Those folks would be imported, to stay only while work is being done in Madera County, and then move on to the job of work down the line.
That doesn’t mean Madera County won’t benefit to some extent. Those workers will have to eat, and will need places to live while they are working here for however long their jobs take, which probably will be many weeks if not several months. That means local restaurants and hotels are likely to do a lot more business, which in turn probably will mean more jobs in those establishments.
That’s a good thing. Local people seeking work are much more likely to be qualified for restaurant and hotel work than they are for work associated with high-speed rail.
High-speed-rail advocates have seen the rail program as a huge job-creating engine, and there has been nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t want to see more jobs in the local economy?
But at least we know now that what jobs are created won’t turn into a plethora of high-wage family-supporting positions. It is better to plan around the pie you know you’ll be served and can eat instead of pie in the sky.