Hiring Restrictions Seem Outrageous
It seems a travesty. People thrown out of jobs in Robbins can't be hired by the same company 13 miles up the road in the town of Star, no matter how much American Growler would like to hire them to work on its Navy contracts there.
Why? Because it's against the law. And why is that? Because Star, unlike Robbins in comparatively prosperous Moore County, has something called "HUBZone" status with the Small Business Administration. "HUBZone" is a federal program that gives preference to "historically underutilized business zones" for government contracts.
Some zones are whole counties. Some, like part of Sanford, are in hard-hit sections of towns and cities. Robbins would like to be certified as such a zone. But it has to wait for official U.S. Census data to come out in November before its application may be considered. That's another SBA rule.
A Good Idea Gone Bad
At first glance, HUBZones sound like a good idea - a way to help route tax money where it's needed. Supporters of the program say it is a "job creator" - certainly a prime buzzword in this election year. But the trouble is, those jobs are reserved for people who already live in HUBZones. Too bad if your house is down the road across the county line.
Until 2012 Census figures come out, Robbins can't even be considered for that status - though it's plain to see that too many in struggling Robbins are out of work and living below the poverty line.
Take Danny Brown, who retired after years protecting and serving Robbins as his hometown's police chief. He went to work at the Growler plant on Green Street, where he rose to head of production. Now he's losing his job, and the company says it may not even consider hiring him in Star. He doesn't live there, so it is against the law to hire him for that reason, according to Growler owner Bill Crisp. That seems outrageous.
Opportunity Out the Window
Those who have sought an explanation from the SBA have reached only a maze of unresponsive recordings, one or two earnest workers who said they couldn't answer HUBZone questions, and message-taking machinery. Crisp said job-seekers have to submit utility bills or other documents to prove they already live in the Star zone, or they are out of luck. They "aren't eligible" for those jobs, as one SBA worker put it.
To those of us living down here and looking into the big end of the Washington telescope, this all seems incredible - especially at this time when the importance of jobs is on every candidate's list. Here we have some jobs for which former Growler workers here would seem to be eminently qualified, and yet they're frozen out by that same federal government whose Constitution was amended a century and a half ago to forbid enforcement of "any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" or "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Are Danny Brown and his fellow workers not persons? Does this SBA policy not abridge their privileges or immunities? Does it not deny them the promised equality simply on the basis of where they happen to live?
Yep, "outrageous" is the word.
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