Migrants boost sales totals

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BOARDMAN, Ore. _ Although their true impact on the economy hasn't been measured, migrant workers surely provide a boost for some types of businesses.

Grocery and retail store owners say that sales increase immediately when migrant workers are in the area. Since migrant workers do not have a large income, they will spend their money on necessities such as food and clothes and, of course, gas and parts for their vehicles.

Chuck Valdez, manager of Big Apple Food Warehouse, said that his sales jumped by 10 percent this year once migrant workers moved into the area in early spring.

Sales increased even more last year because of better crop production, which meant there were more migrant workers in the area, he said.

Another popular place for migrants to shop is at the Safeway stores in Walla Walla and Milton-Freewater. Store managers said it was difficult for them to determine actual sales during the time when migrants live in the area; however, they say there is an increase during the spring and summer months.

``When seasonal workers are in the area, we do see some improvement in business,'' said John Blakely, district manager for Safeway in Yakima.

Several state agencies contacted by the Union-Bulletin said they did not know the economic impact that migrant farm workers have on the state of Washington.

However, it's clear that whatever impact they have is now on the wane. Now that most of the crops have been harvested and the winter months are not far ahead, migrant workers and their families are beginning to return home. It is during this time that stores are expecting a decline in sales.

In Milton-Freewater, the store that probably feels the most impact is 3-Amigos Bakery located at 123 E. Broadway. Although specific figures could not be given, owner Ramiro Zuniga said business slows down a bit when migrant workers are not in the area.

3-Amigos Bakery is popular among Hispanic migrants because of the types of products that can be purchased at the little corner store. On stock are candies, herbs, teas and soft drinks brought directly from Mexico. Most of the canned goods and non-perishables are packaged in Mexico; therefore, labels are written in Spanish. Sweet bread, very popular among Hispanics, Mexican and /{Tejano/} music, pinatas, zarapes and pottery can also be found in the store.

But during this time of year, when stores may be feeling a pinch in their sales, business is booming at the Greyhound Bus station in Walla Walla. A ticket agent said a lot of people have been taking advantage of specials, including one-way tickets to Texas that cost $68.

Without the special fare, a one-way ticket to Texas costs around $200.

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