McALLEN, RGV – As people continue to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Rio Grande Valley residents will also feel the effects in more ways than one.

Janie Cavazos, vice president of U.S. business recruitment for McAllen Economic Development Corporation, estimates as many as 2,000 call center jobs will be needed in preparation for the thousands of FEMA claims that will need to be processed.

McAllen EDC Vice President Janie Cavazos.

In her U.S. Business Retention and Expansion Report, Cavazos says that Black Turtle Services in McAllen has already committed to add 600 jobs exclusively for FEMA operations, which they hope to fill by the end of the month. MAXIMUS and Teleperformance also plan to add 600–700 employees each.

“The call center industry is really booming right now because of FEMA,” said Cavazos. “This is all related to the hurricanes that have been occurring and a lot of the calls are being routed to this area.”

Cavazos also pointed out the increased salary an employee can receive by working at these call centers – a great opportunity for those seeking more than minimum wage.

On the other hand, the lure of higher wages in Houston could drain the Valley of its skilled workers.

Pat Hobbs, executive director of Workforce Solutions Cameron, explained that the rebuilding effort in Houston will be extensive, and the city will need to draw skilled labor to complete its reconstruction. To do this, they will pay significantly more than usual to attract those laborers.

“Just like Eagle Ford drew all of our truck drivers and welders and oil field workers from the Valley, I expect that the hurricane rebuilding effort in Houston is going to do the same thing,” said Hobbs, at a Rio South Texas Economic Council meeting.  “So, there is a concern among construction companies that they may lose some of their skilled workers to that effort.”

Fracking at the Eagle Ford Shale has decreased as oil prices have dropped in recent years, and Hobbs says that many skilled workers did return home. Still, he worries about the timing of hurricane reconstruction efforts amid the numerous projects Cameron County has on its plate in the coming year.

“My fear is that if any of these projects that were mentioned today happened to hit … LNG, shipbuilding and SpaceX, [Keppel] AmFELs with welders – if any of those things hits during the same rebuilding period of Houston, then we’re going to be at a highly competitive wage-rate battle to keep our skilled labor,” said Hobbs.

For now, Hobbs says that he is waiting for the insurance money from Harvey to start rolling in. That’s when he says the “real rebuilding” will take place.