One of the firms the bank built: Tony Lama boots

When Glen Jordan gave up New York City winters to become president of El Paso's State National Bank in 1970, he found both year-round golfing and ''a little country town with country bankers that was fixing to explode.''

To help the explosion along a little, Mr. Jordan brought in a team of 18 other outsiders and launched ''a very aggressive loan policy,'' visiting everyone from company presidents to cotton farmers to let them know expansion capital was available. He put Mexicans on the bank board and became a banker to Juarez as well as to El Paso. ''You build a bank first,'' says Mr. Jordan, now a mergers and acquisitions consultant, ''and then the bank builds the community.''

One of the direct beneficiaries of bank building has been Tony Lama Jr., chairman of the board of El Paso's 1-million-pair-a-year Tony Lama western boot company. He recalls with a broad grin just how spectacularly El Paso has changed. When Mr. Lama started working full time for his father in 1954, Tony Lama Sr. was turning out 125 pairs of boots a day. Lama Sr., a former cavalryman , started the business in 1911 to repair boots for El Paso's US Cavalry units and for local ranchers.

After overseeing four major plant expansions and now preparing for the next one, Tony Lama Jr. has 1,350 employees turning out 4,200 to 4,400 pairs of boots a day. This is down from last year's 1,625 workers and 5,400 pairs a day - a drop that has cut into company profits.

Mr. Lama admits that the recession has hurt. ''Our regular customers are getting by with buying one pair instead of three pairs.'' Sales are off, and retail outlets are carrying smaller inventories; and so Tony Lama has a 45-day inventory of boots rather than its normal 30-day supply.

He remains optimistic, though. One reason is that 88 percent of his boot sales are west of the Mississippi in the Sunbelt. This area, says Lama, is growing fast and every newcomer - such as El Paso's Connecticut-Yankee Mayor Jonathan Rogers - is bound to need boots.

Stock analyst Harry Miller, an Underwood Neuhaus & Co. Inc. vice-president in Houston, agrees that the Tony Lama Company's prospects are bright. With an $81 -million friendly takeover nearly complete, Mr. Miller says the only additional change may be to put more capital into the El Paso firm. He adds that the company has benefited from good management, a position as an industry leader, and ''a favorable labor environment in El Paso.''

The urban-cowboy fad, he says, brought a sudden leap in earnings last year, making '82 earnings look poor by comparison. But Mr. Miller says the end of the fad ''certainly doesn't change the positive outlook'' for Tony Lama.

Another example of positive outlook comes from Robert Hamilton, general manager of the General Telephone & Electronics Corporation (GTE) Lenkurt plant in El Paso. He is moving manufacturing operations from GTE's San Carlos, Calif. , headquarters to El Paso and moving more assembly operations from the El Paso plant into GTE's maquila or ''twin'' plant across the Mexican border in Juarez.

Mr. Hamilton explains that high costs are driving the company out of California, while the El Paso plant's record as ''the most productive plant we have in terms of output per hour, utilization, and quality, with readily available capacity for continued growth'' makes El Paso a natural new base.

Alan Siebenaler, GTE Lenkurt general manager for the Juarez plant, praises the trainability and high performance of Mexican workers. He plans to double GTE's current Juarez work force, to 500, by the end of January.

John Braswell, operations manager for the new Illinois-based Daniel Woodhead Inc. El Paso plant, tells a similar story. The company was forced to move south , and he finds in El Paso ''employees who have a work ethic that no longer exists in the North.'' His one complaint is that a number of support services, such as die casting and statistical information have not reached El Paso yet.

Three years after opening the company's first maquila plant in Juarez and one year after opening the El Paso plant, Mr. Braswell says corporate plans call for all future labor-intensive expansions of Daniel Woodhead to take place in the Juarez-El Paso area.

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