Food and accommodation sectors show largest growth in Presidio County

MARFA — Presidio County officials heard a presentation from Workforce Solutions Borderplex CEO Leila Melendez last Wednesday, which centered around an industry study conducted by the organization.

The study showed that there are approximately 2,500 people employed and 181 business establishments in Presidio County. The accommodation and food service sectors had the highest level of job growth over the past five years, followed by professional and technical services. Healthcare and social assistance services, Melendez added, is expected to grow in the region, while most other industries have declined. The largest industry for employment is public administration, with around 500 employees.

The highest wages in the county are in public administration, followed by professional and technical services and then utilities.

According to Melendez, the 2019 demographic data showed that there were approximately 6,704 people residing in the county in 2019, showing a population decrease of 14 percent over the last decade, with 81 percent of citizens classified as Hispanic and 13 percent classified as white. The median age, she added, was about 41.

The study also delved into median household income, which came in at around $37,700, significantly less than the statewide average of around $60,000.

The county, Melendez added, has a poverty rate of 33 percent –– more than double the state average of 16 percent –– with the poverty rate for children under 18 even higher at 35 percent of the population.

Though higher than state averages, the poverty rate for individuals and children under 18  has dropped since the 2010 Census — previously recorded at 36.4 percent and 43 percent.

The study, which was administered in 2020 by a consultant hired through the Workforce Development Board, looked into industries, businesses and local demographics utilizing data from the Census Bureau from 2017 to 2019 as well as a database used by the Workforce Solutions that classifies businesses according to the North American classification code, Melendez explained.

Melendez called for “a summit to convene diverse and varied stakeholders of the region” to discuss and review the report as well as outline strategies to help “improve the economic vitality of the region.”

She hopes the meeting, either virtual or in-person post-pandemic, will provide an opportunity for businesses and stakeholders to “network and share ideas.”

Melendez briefly discussed Pathways, a program started by Workforce Solutions following the start of the pandemic, that provides free support through business consultants to local businesses to “increase the digital and technology capacity of businesses.”

Workforce Solutions is also aiming to provide childcare services in Presidio County by partnering with the region’s YWCA to work with childcare providers. The pandemic has halted some of the progress in this venture.

Melendez emphasized that while the pandemic has shuttered a number of childcare facilities and limited the capacity of the ones still in operation, Workforce Solutions is offering the Relative Child Care Program –– an initiative to pay qualifying family members who care for children if parents are enrolled in school or looking for work.

“It’s killing two birds with one stone: it’s providing income for the relative and it’s also providing an opportunity for the parent to get reemployment,” she said. “This is a really great service available and we want to make sure that the community is aware of it.”

The organization has also compiled a list of businesses that are hiring workers, which can be accessed by contacting a Workforce Solutions office.

For more information on Workforce Solutions Borderplex, please visit