Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was in Nacogdoches Tuesday promoting the Texas Back-to-Work program, which offers government subsidies to companies that hire low-wage unemployed workers.
At a press conference held at the local Texas Work Force Commission office, Dewhurst said that the $15 million program approved by the last state Legislature has put back to work 758 people at nearly 500 companie. Texas Back-to-Work offers employers $500 for each 30-day period they keep a formerly unemployed worker on the payroll up to $2,000 for 120 days.
"We tailored this (program) really for workers who are earning about $15/hour, or perhaps a little less, but it can be used for anyone," Dewhurst said. "I've asked the Texas Workforce Commission to make sure when they qualify a company and an individual that we're talking about people that they would not have hired anyway. This a nudge, helping people move forward into hiring an unemployed workforce."
Local companies participating in the employment program include Endura Products, Cooper Power Systems, Parker Hannifin and Cal-Tex Lumber.
Dewhurst said that the Back-to-Work program will help Texas mitigate the effects of the waning recession that since 2008 has helped push the national unemployment rate to 9.7 percent and the state's unemployment rate to 8.2 percent.
At. 6.6 percent, Nacogdoches' unemployment rate is well below both the state and national average. Dewhurst called the local figure a "really, really good number."
"But at the end of the day, if someone doesn't have a job, their unemployment (rate) is 100 percent."
As economic conditions continue to improve overall in the nation and the state, Dewhurst said he is hoping that Texas will lead the economic recovery for the nation.
"I think Texas has realistically weathered this national recession virtually better than any other state out there," he said. "I think we were the last state into the recession, and I want to make sure we're the first state out of this recession."
Dewhurst also said that the state must overcome a "real challenge" in creating jobs for not just Texans, but the 1,300 people he says move to the state everyday. He said the Internal Revenue Service confirmed that figure for him, which adds up to about 475,000 new residents annually.