Hinojosa puts education first

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas) knows a thing or two about job creation.

As the president and chief financial officer of his family’s food processing business in southern Texas for 20 years, Hinojosa grew the number of employees in his company from 30 to 300. Along with that rapid growth in employees came recognition from the Department of Commerce for the number of minority hires his company made.

“When I got out of college, we had 30 employees, and during my years of being at the head of the company, I helped the business become the largest employer in that area second only to the school district,” Hinojosa said. “It gave me a great deal of satisfaction because I was helping create jobs and giving young people the opportunity to work during the summer.”

Now a member of Congress, Hinojosa said none of his accomplishments would have been possible without his parents’ belief in the importance of education for the 11 children in his family.

“My mother was the one who believed in education and saw to it that all of us graduated from high school and half of us graduated from college,” Hinojosa said of his mother, a Mexican immigrant. “I was very fortunate that I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May of 1962.”

Today, in his role on the Education and Workforce Committee, Hinojosa said he strives to help others gain the same access to education he had and to help businesses create jobs like the ones that grew from his family’s business.

To do that, Hinojosa has pushed for the more community colleges in his district,  located 250 miles south of San Antonio in “Deep South Texas.” 

Hinojosa focused on creating non-farms jobs because he wanted better-paying jobs that would last year-round and offer healthcare benefits.

“And in that strategic plan I would tell my staff that we were going to focus on education, healthcare and infrastructure projects,” he said.

So far, that strategy seems to be working in Hinojosa’s district.

Attendance at area universities and community colleges has skyrocketed, Hinojosa said, as has the size of the population in his district, which is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country according to 2010 census data.

Hinojosa pointed to a community college in his district that opened its doors in 1993 with 800 students and after rapid growth, now enrolls 33,000 students. 

And, as the population has grown, Hinojosa said unemployment rates have fallen below the national average in his district, to less than 6 percent.

  He also pointed to a local hospital in his district that grew from 1,000 employees in 2005 to 3,500 employees in 2010, largely by hiring local community college students who trained to be X-ray technicians, physicians assistants and nurses.

Improving infrastructure with funds from President Obama’s stimulus package, Hinojosa said, also helped create jobs in his district.

“I can say that there are lots of jobs that were created during the Obama administration with the stimulus money that we were allowed two years ago — with a lot of infrastructure projects including roads and highway construction and improvements that included two international bridges [between Texas and Mexico],” Hinojosa said.

But for Hinojosa, investing in education is the key to economic growth at home. 

“If students who graduate from community colleges and universities in our area are well trained, we will be able to not only attract the employers but be able to increase the numbers of jobs,” he said.