In response to your article "Imperial County Hungers for Jobs at Harvest Time," Dec. 22:
While I do not dispute the abysmal unemployment figures cited in the article, I do believe it is important to note the unemployment rate in Imperial County has historically ranked among the highest in the state. There has always been tremendous flux in agricultural employment, which still drives the local economy, and your staff writer correctly points out that the whitefly infestation has only served to compound the problem.
Still, in terms of balance, more space could have been devoted to the many positive aspects of our region's economy, not the least of which has been the veritable boom in construction projects in El Centro and throughout the Imperial Valley.
In the last two years, El Centro has added more than 1 million square feet of commercially zoned new construction, which is unprecedented for a community of this size. Since the mid-1980s, El Centro's retail sales have increased an average of 9% a year, an impressive statistic that somehow never appeared in your article.
Clearly, agriculture has been battered in recent years, but agriculture has been a notoriously cyclical industry, and we are confident that the current downward trend will correct itself.
In the meantime, commercial development and job creation in the non-agricultural sector continue unabated, and there is ample reason to be optimistic about Imperial County's long-term economic prospects.
El Centro Chamber of Commerce