JBS should step up, help Greeley schools

JBS USA understands it has certain responsibilities that go beyond processing quality filets and roasts.

The Greeley-based company talks about this on its website. Here’s what it says:

“We recognize the enormous social responsibility of employing 65,000 people in the United States, Mexico and Australia. We are cognizant that behind every employee is a family, for whom the employee provides. We understand that in every city where we do business there is a community, to which we contribute.

“At JBS, we are committed to all of our employees, their families and communities. Our efforts are toward preserving jobs and enhancing our role in the community.”

Nice, right?

Better yet, JBS does more than talk the talk; it has a concrete track record that shows it’s serious about this stuff.

Every year, JBS participates in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. JBS also sponsors the Greeley Relay for Life Dinner.

The Greeley Stampede and the United Way of Weld County have benefited from their relationships with JBS for years.

In addition, JBS says it has fed more than 2,000 Special Olympians and volunteers, and it competes in the annual Weld County Food Bank Corporate Food Challenge to see who among other large corporations can give the most donations of food, money and volunteer time.

In short, this is not a company that takes its role in the community lightly.

The administrators and teachers in the Greeley-Evans District 6 schools should take heart from this.

As our Steve Lynn reported in the Dec. 28-Jan. 10 issue of the Business Report, District 6 classrooms are brimming with children from countries such as Somalia, Myanmar, Sudan, Ethiopia and elsewhere. They are a population of refugees.

In all, there are 20 nationalities represented in District 6’s student population. English is very much a second language for these kids.

Educating them, as you might imagine, isn’t cheap.

The district spends about $2.7 million a year on its English Language Development program and, because federal and state funding are limited, it has had to repeatedly dip into its general fund to pay for programs aimed at educating these children.

What does JBS have to do with all of this?

A lot.

According to its latest count, there are 434 children in District 6 schools who are refugees. Altogether, the district has 4,560 foreign-born students. Many are the children of parents drawn to Greeley by jobs at JBS. Their fathers and mothers work in the company’s beef, chicken and pork processing operations.

So far, District 6 has been shouldering the cost of educating this group of kids pretty much on its own.

Don Jackson, the CEO of JBS USA, told the Greeley Tribune in the fall that the company hoped the tax base it provides to the community can help the district address the issue. He also said JBS wants to do more to be a better neighbor.

Apparently, JBS and the district will be getting together on this question at some point soon. “We look forward to meeting with District 6 and seeing how we can do a better job of playing a positive role in that community,” JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett told our reporter.

Good corporations know that good community relations means being good citizens. Good communities don’t abuse that.

In this case, I think District 6 is right in suggesting that JBS could be doing more to help correct a problem that it helped to create.

Allen Greenberg is the editor of the Northern Colorado Business Report. He can be reached at 970-232-3142 or agreenberg@ncbr.com.

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