A good transportation system is one of the most important tools needed for economic development. The movie “Field of Dreams” made famous, the line, “Build it and they will come.” That might be true but they must have good roads, on which to travel, to come. To help the city get in line for highway funding the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce presented the city council with their list of potential road and street projects. These projects were designed to unite Port Arthur from the north to south to west and east, lower speed limits at dangerous intersections and allow better access from north of highway 73 to Proctor. It is the chamber’s belief that improving access to Proctor would increase the possibility of attracting private investors for the renovation of downtown Port Arthur.
There are TXDot funds available for improving transportation that increase safety, environmental protection and economic development, but, the city must adopt a plan and present it to TxDot for funding. Once these projects are, officially, in line for funding the Chamber can then lobby for them to be included in TxDot’s long range funding plan.
After our presentation, to the City Council, the Chamber Transportation Committee Chairman, Ron Arceneaux, and I met with representatives from the Engineering and Planning firm of Freese and Nichols, city planning, city manager and TXDot, to discuss including our transportation plan in the city long range plan. At their next city council meeting, the council discussed a resolution to ask TxDot to begin a study to reduce the speed limit at the intersection of Highway 73 and Highway 69. This cloverleaf is one of the most dangerous intersections in Jefferson County and is one of the projects the Chamber suggested be redesigned.
The following week I sent a letter to Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, asking him to expedite the signing of the last permit needed by Golden Pass LNG to begin selling liquid natural gas to those countries needing it. It was a major coincidence that I wrote the letter two days before he signed it. I know, the permit was on his desk to be signed and my letter had nothing to do with his action, but I’m taking a page out of a politician’s hand book and taking full credit for getting this document signed. Aside from building my ego the signing of the permit marked an exciting day for our area. Once all evaluations of the existing market are complete I am sure Golden Pass LNG will decide to start the 12-billion-dollar project that will bring approximately 6000 constructions jobs to Port Arthur.
Lamar State College-Port Arthur is facing some, serious, reduction in state funding if our local state leaders don’t intervene in the budget process. Two years ago, college President, Dr. Betty Reynard faced similar challenges and was forced to reduce staff and eliminate some sports programs. She cut her budget by 14% to balance the budget at that time. To face another, million dollars plus, reduction of a bare bones budget will create more challenges to our college. In those two years Dr. Reynard has seen the completion of new dorms, the start of a new Technology Center and an increase in enrollment. It would be a shame to have all this momentum threatened by further budget cuts. We will keep contacting our state leaders and encourage each of you to do the same. They are working on it but they need all the help they can get.
In other action the Directors voted to move forward to seek 5 Star Accreditation from the US Chamber of Commerce. They expressed their excitement on the chamber being recognized as a 4 Star Chamber but felt the 5th star was in reach by the end of 2017.
The Port Arthur Education Foundation recognized 15 top academic stars from PAISD and SPISD at the 2017 Stars Banquet. Three hundred areas businesses sponsored and attending this event recognizing those students, from these two Port Arthur districts, that have excelled in their academic lives. Each of the students also received scholarships to the college of their choice.
It was a good month for the chamber. As school ends, vacations start and temperatures rise we will be looking forward to another summer in Port Arthur. If you want to be part of the team, call Paige Snyder at 409-963-1107, extension 3.
Transportation is one of the most important components for economic development. If you can’t easily drive to an area it is unlikely business will invest in that area. Good streets and roads are also necessary for safe travel. The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee made a presentation to the Port Arthur City Council at a meeting in April.
This plan does not cover the usual maintenance and repair of existing streets but rather focuses on the long range, costly projects as presented below. The purpose of the chamber’s presentation was to get the city to adopt a plan that all can support.
The plan addressed three goals: Transportation Unification of Port Arthur, Safety, and development or redevelopment of land.
TRANSPORTATION UNIFICATION: The unification of Port Arthur through the development of good streets that traverse north, south, east and west.
SAFETY: The plan creates wider access and lower speed limits at some of our more dangerous intersections.
DEVELOPMENT OR REDEVELOPMENT: Extending roads through undeveloped land generates new retail and residential investment thereby creating increased property and sales tax revenue for the city. Creating easier access to downtown Port Arthur allows the more populated areas to access downtown and attract new retail investment or use the renovated parks and attend events.
The following streets are included in the plan submitted to the council.
The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce has no tax funds, nor do we have the power to ask the state, county or federal government for funding. However, if the city would adopt some, or all, of this plan the chamber does have 630 members and over 2000 representatives of those members, that can speak, lobby and pressure these agencies on behalf of the city to place these projects on their list of funded projects. If the city does not get in line for funding, these expensive projects, they will not get considered. Most of the money from these agencies flow through the South-East Texas Regional Planning Commission’s transportation department. When they hold their planning sessions Port Arthur should be in line pushing their unified long range transportation plan. The chamber is willing to be there, but we need a plan, on which we can agree and support.
The Chamber appreciates the council’s willingness to hear our plan and we anxiously await their decision.
The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce will begin its rebranding campaign in May of 2017. At a meeting on April 20, 2017 the Executive Committee approved the Logo Committee’s recommendation to adopt a new logo. The design was one submitted by Eric Sullivan with e.Sullivan Advertising & Design. The chamber was a member of the committee organized to design a new logo for the City of Port Arthur. This committee consisted of representatives from the City Council, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Economic Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce. The chamber, already in the process of designing a new logo, suspended its search to find a single logo to represent Port Arthur. After several months of searching the final choices were submitted to the city. The council decided to keep its old logo. The chamber immediately obtained permission to have Eric Sullivan modify one of the final submissions and the logo below was adopted. Over the next few months the chamber will begin using the latest version on stationary, business cards, presentations in all chamber publications.
UNITED STATES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RECOGNIZES THE GREATER PORT ARTHUR CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
On the way home, from a successful Golden Triangle Days in Austin I received a phone call from Allison Ehrlich with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She was calling to tell me the Board of Directors of the U.S. Chamber had voted to award the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce the designation of a Four Star Accredited Chamber of Commerce. In the United States, there are 33 chambers of commerce with this designation. In Texas, there are 13 Four Star Accredited chambers of commerce. The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce is proud to become a part of this elite group.
Raymond P. Towle, IOM. CAE, U.S. Chamber vice president of Federation Relations and Institute for Organization Management said, “The U.S. Chamber’s Accreditation validates a chamber as having programs that benefit its local economy and positively influence its community. We applaud these organizations for advancing the principles of free enterprise.”
The only program of its kind in the country, U.S. Chamber accreditation recognizes excellence in chamber planning and performance. To achieve accreditation, a chamber must demonstrate quality programs, clear organizational procedures, and effective communications by meeting minimum operation and program standards in the areas of Governance, Finance, Human Resources, Government Affairs, Program Development, Technology, Communications, Facilities and Bench Marking policies and programs. If properly done the chamber will emerge from the program with a more efficient, productive and managed organization. When we entered the process, I told the staff and volunteers we want the certification but we want the end results that such a process produces. Due to the unselfish contribution of time and resources from Barbara Phillips, Verna Rutherford, Mitch Osborne, Ray Thompson, Marian Ruiz, Blaine Caillier, Carol Hebert, Stuart Salter, Ted Moor, Ron Arceneaux, Carol Hebert, Paul Chargois, Rich Macke, Joe Tant, Raquel Ochoa and Paige Snyder the Greater Port Arthur Chamber received the certificate and the benefits of the Accreditation Process.
If you want to be part of a 4 Star Accredited chamber, call Paige Snyder at 409 963 1107.