Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce
As the new year begins the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce celebrates another successful year. In 2018 the chamber continued to expand programs designed to offer our members opportunities to benefit from the billions of dollars in new and expanding projects.
The Contractors Business Development Group hosted programs, each month, educating members on the process of becoming a registered, certified or qualified vendor to bid on major projects. At the same time Travis Woods, Group Chairperson, shared contact numbers of purchasing agents, and project managers. Speakers, from area projects, came to enlighten the participants of project timelines and bidding requirements. The Contractors Business Development Group is a part of a coastal network of contractors sharing information and resources.
The chamber recognized the need to involve our Hispanic owned businesses in the chamber. Creating the Hispanic Business Council addressed the feeling of segregation felt by many or our Hispanic business owners. Each, monthly, meeting is held in Spanish and English. The members are invited to attend luncheons and trade shows in the area. The HBC also sponsored two Lunch and Learn events, each attended by 25 members. Next year it is the hope of the chamber the HBC expands their programs to include leadership training and the importance of being included in the 2020 census count.
Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) is always a priority for the chamber. Traditionally HUB businesses are thought of as woman or minority owned businesses. Veterans owned businesses are also included. Being certified as a HUB provides a business with an edge when bidding on government projects. Many government projects or private projects funded by the government are required to have a percentage of the project provided by HUB businesses. The chamber highly recommends the Small Business Development Center at Lamar Port Arthur as the organization to see to become a HUB business. Linda Tait, director of the SBDC, offers free services to all requesting it.
The chamber sponsored four Leadership Breakfasts and four Membership Luncheons. Each of these were attended by 150 – 200 business leaders to hear leaders from government entities to plant managers from the area.
Paige Snyder, our membership/events director organized a Trade Show and a New Members Showcase for the purpose of offering our members networking opportunities. These will continue in 2019 and will expand.
Our Hispanic Business Council sponsored the Golden Pass LNG Golf Tournament. This was the chamber’s first golf tournament and 30 teams participated. The tournament was played at the Babe Zaharias Golf Course in Port Arthur.
The Port Arthur Education Foundation was in the right place at the right time to help PAISD, SPISD and Lamar State College – Port Arthur recover from the effects of Hurricane Harvey. Thanks to Golden Pass LNG and other area industry and businesses the Foundation was awarded and distributed $338,254.00 to the schools and college. The foundation also awarded teacher grants for innovative programs, not otherwise funded by the state. At the Stars Banquet, the foundation awarded the top students scholarships and recognized teachers and parents for their support
Perhaps the shining star in the chamber’s crown, for 2018 was the awarding, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, of the 5 Star Accredited Chamber recognition. Out of 7000 chambers in the United States, less than two percent achieve this rating. The award was recognition of the efforts of the volunteers and staff. It was proof the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce is well managed, planned, staffed and offers a value to its members.
Golden Triangle Days In Austin is rapidly approaching. Register to attend the Golden Triangle Days in Austin. If you have not registered for the event you must go to www.gtdatx.com and do so soon. If you have booked a room this does not register you to attend the legislative sessions nor the celebration on the evening of February 12, 2019. Please note, all activities will take place on February 12, 2019. There is no Sunday or Monday night reception. If you have questions call the Beaumont, Orange or Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce.
I am extremely proud of the impact the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce has had on Port Arthur, Texas in its 119-year history. It has been the driving force behind the economic growth of this city. I appreciate being allowed to be a part of this organization since 2011.
We ended 2018 by submitting our application to become a 5 Star Accredited Chamber of Commerce. In 2017 we received a 4 Star level from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and it is our desire to join the few 5 Star chambers, out of the 7000 chambers in the United States. In 2018 we survived a hurricane and a 500-year flood. Recovery is not complete but, to help in the recovery, the chamber’s education foundation distributed almost $500,000.00 to our college and our public schools. All that money was made possible by contributions from our members, with $324,000.00 coming from Golden Pass LNG. It is an example of the willingness of our industries to help Port Arthur and a perfect example of how a chamber partners with members to benefit our city.
Other successes in 2018 was the creation of our Contractors Business Group and our Hispanic Business Council. Both task forces resulted in an increase in membership, diversity and economic development for the chamber. These two groups will continue to grow and, hopefully, encourage other business groups to take advantage of the chamber and form similar interest groups. These efforts are not to divide but to involve all businesses of all races in the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce. These groups work to breakdown barriers between groups and educate each on how to use the chamber to increase their business.
Although it will not happen until 2020 the U.S. Census effort has begun. There are training seminars planned for this year to involve as many people as possible in the Census effort leading up to 2020. Getting everyone counted is financially important to our city because population is a key to getting federal monies. In the last census many Hispanic residents refused to be counted because they had been told the information would be used to deport them. I expect the same tactics to be used this time. I hope our chamber and city can work together to educate all our residents of the importance in being counted. The chamber will be sending a staff member to several of the planned training seminars to determine the best method of using our members to encourage all residents to register. There are indications that Port Arthur may lose residents, due to Hurricane Harvey, so having all remaining residents be counted is extremely important to our ability to attract our fair share of government funding. Money is not the only reason. The population also determines the number of Representatives that each state has in Washington. The more Representatives we have, the better represented is Texas. As you can see, now, more than ever, is the time to be counted.
If you want to be part of this effort and you believe what we are doing is important, call Paige Snyder at 409-936-1107 Extension 3 and be counted. Join the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce
Sears, I remember when you had a last name.
One morning last month I was sitting in my office when the phone rang. It was a reporter from a local TV station wanting an, on camera, interview about the closing of Sears. Although, the Port Arthur Sears was not on the list of immediate closings, I agreed to an appointment. I grabbed my hat, climbed into my truck, lit up a cigar and headed north. On the way, the memory of my first encounters, with Sears and Roebuck, took me back to the past. I remembered when, as a boy, out in the woods of East Texas, the Sears and Roebuck catalog arrived in the mail. My grandfather always referred to it as the Sears and Rareback” catalog. The products shown on those pages went beyond what a person might purchase. They transported an entire nation to the future. These pages were the first time new styles and inventions were seen by many folks. Amazing items like, electric can openers, coffee pots, electric stoves and vacuum cleaners. As a youngster I had to wait until the adults had finished perusing the pages. I would listen to the gasps and exclamations of, “Wow, would you look at that! What will they think of next? If we just had electricity the vacuum cleaner would be nice to suck the dirt from the rough wood floors.” There was speculation as to how curtains would spruce up the house, if a little extra money could be found. New dish patterns, of flowers and beautiful abstract designs, were wished for to replace the old, chip and crack, design most people used. A set of matching dishes, including cups, saucers, salad plates, dinner plates, serving dishes were almost unheard of in the country. Most newlyweds had picked up odds and ends from relatives or collected them one at a time from dishwashing soap. The women looked, longingly, at the new fashions and dreamed of how they would look, dressed up, in these newfangled city clothes, going to the ball. Some dreamed of the luxury of having a machine that washed the clothes and had a wringer that would get some of the water out before hanging them on a line, outside, in the sun, to dry.
After the adults finished, the kids gathered to look at the toy section. A few of the wayward boys would sneak a peek at the bra section, hoping to get a glimpse of a woman in underwear. Of course, I never did that. Little girls would cut out the underwear models and dresses, making instant paper dolls. Tools and mechanized tillers caught the attention to those that had labored, long, behind a plow or used a hoe, rake and shovel to prepare the garden each year.
For months the catalog would be left out. It had many uses. Standing on it allowed shorter family members to reach the top shelf or placing it in the highchair to lift the new baby. The end, to the old edition, was marked by the arrival of the new catalog. The old edition might be retired to the outhouse or torn up to be used to start a fire in the stove. The Sears and Roebuck catalog was more than advertising, it was a portal from one generation to the next. A glimpse into the future and a source of dreams and what could be. It provided incentive to do better so, one day, just maybe, you could get that, wished for, item.
Back in the present, I gave 10 second sound bites, about the economic impact of Sears closing. I also spoke of the personal impact on the employees. Some were elderly and had been in retail their whole lives. While many jobs are available in America, many, of those jobs, are in the construction or technical field. Most of the retail employees are too far alone in their lives to shift their career paths to that type of work. I talked about loss of sales taxes and the difficulty in finding a use for such a large building. Like the employees, the building had spent its life as a retail establishment attached to a large enclosed mall. Malls, such as this, have been suffering for years under the onslaught of on-line shopping and the switch to walk up malls or stand-alone facilities. In the case of Sears their path, to bankruptcy, was accelerated due to bad management at the top. Sears Holding Company is the parent company of Kmart and Sears. They got away from their core customers and tried to be everything to everybody. Just like people, companies that do this, usually end up pleasing no one. Sears failed to keep what was working and failed to find an effective way of competing for on-line shoppers. Their products, at one time, were some of the best available, but over the years that, too, was no longer true. Finally, on October 15, Sears, filed bankruptcy. Another American standard fell to a changing market and bad leadership. As I said, the only good thing, from my point of view, is, at this time, Port Arthur Sears is not on the closing list.
All the above is sad but the real loss, to me, and a lot of old people, is the loss of a piece of history. A part of our childhood is no longer. The interview done, I go on about my day, a little sadder at the loss of an old friend.