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Speaker: Seasonal ag workers can be loyal customers
Approximately 46,000 people work in the fields, packing coolers and processing plants during the height of the area's winter vegetable season.
Some are permanent residents, others cross the border each morning to work and still others are brought into the country as temporary guest workers.
Wherever they're from or how long they're here, they represent a considerable potential buying force, those attending the Know Yuma Inside & Out business forum Thursday morning were told.
“They share the same values as other consumers,” said Abel Almanza, vice president of Pan American Insurance Agency. “They want to stretch their dollars and provide for their families.”
Treat them well and they will be very loyal, he advised. And they'll tell others.
“They use word of mouth to tell each other where they found a good deal ... and good customer service. That's the best way to reach them.”
It's not enough to post a sign saying that the business has Spanish-speaking employees, said Almanza, adding that he personally has witnessed bilingual staff treating a customer rudely.
“Rudeness is the same in English and Spanish. We all want to be treated as valued customers.”
Carlos Arroyo, former migrant advocate at Gadsden Elementary School who recently was named deputy director of Campesinos Sin Fronteras, told of a farmworker who walked into a car dealership in muddy clothes and boots as he had just gotten off work. The farmworker paid cash for a new vehicle.
Emma Torres, executive director of Campesinos Sin Fronteras, likened the border area to a third country with its rich diversity. She noted that there are 1.7 million people in the area from Mexicali to San Luis Rio Colorado and Yuma County.
“We're like one big community.”
Torres also noted that 60 percent of the population in Yuma County is Hispanic, according to the 2010 census. And the impact of the estimated 46,000 farmworkers who are here in the peak of the winter vegetable season doubles when you add in their families. They all need food, clothing and shoes.
“These are hard-working men and women. They like to reward themselves for their hard work by shopping and eating out.”
One issue, she said, is the long wait for the estimated 20,000 farmworkers who reside in Mexico and cross the border every morning to work in the fields.
Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, observed that long waits at the border, whether to cross to work or shop, is the No. 1 issue for communities all along the border. “We're dealing with people in Washington making the rules who have never been to the border.”
Torres noted that while the border is under federal jurisdiction, “I think something can be done if we join voices.”
Know Yuma Inside & Out is a monthly forum hosted by the Yuma Sun in partnership with the city of Yuma, Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, Yuma Visitors Bureau and Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp. to provide local business leaders with information to help them grow their businesses.
The next forum will be held Sept. 20 and focus on the impact of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter squadrons that will be based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and accessory businesses.
‘They share the same values as other consumers'
Thousands of farmworkers represent big economic opportunity