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Fort Bliss replacement hospital not bringing nearly as much local job opportunities it could have

By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas -- A new hospital set to be built on Fort Bliss promises to bring around 1,500 jobs to the borderland.

A job fair was held Wednesday to recruit workers for the replacement hospital.

But the project isn't benefiting the El Paso community as much as it could have.

"We in the construction community, it's been pretty slow here in El Paso in the last year or so since the big work at Fort Bliss ended," said Carlos Ornelas, president of the Southwest Specialty Contractors Association.

So the building of a brand-new hospital to replace William Beaumont Army Medical Center was supposed to be a much-needed boost.

But soon after the hospital's nearly $650 million construction contract was awarded to out-of-town contractor Clark/McCarthy, some local subcontractors say, that all changed.

"They made us think that they were going to work with us but in the end, they already knew who they were going to use for the project and it was not local subcontractors," Ornelas said.

Only about 6 percent of El Paso-area subcontractors were chosen for the job.

All others, are from out of town.

Ornelas said they fought hard for the business.

"We just didn't have enough clout to get them to change their minds," Ornelas said.

After the job fair was held Wednesday, many emotions he felt months ago, came rushing back.

"They made people think that they were hiring local subcontractors and they're not. They're hiring local workers," Ornelas said.

Ornelas has several concerns.

"These people don't have the experience, they don't have the qualifications to go and do the work, to go and do construction work," Ornelas said.

"I was looking (for) construction because there's a lot of construction going on, so I was looking for that," said D'Shuron Haggard, a local jobseeker who admits he has no construction experience.

Ornelas also said hardly any of the money for the project will churn back into the local economy.

"These subcontractors have already told us they're going to be buying materials for the project in their areas and shipping to El Paso, so our local suppliers are also going to miss out. At this point, we've just lost the battle and we'll just kind of go on to other things," Ornelas said.