The chamber’s year officially begins on January 1. It is this day that new officers take office and begin their programs. The unofficial end of the year is the annual Banquet. The 118th Annual Banquet of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce was January 24 of 2018. The challenge was finding a venue large enough to handle the crowd. In Port Arthur there are only two such locations, the Bob Bowers Civic Center and the Carl Parker Center at Lamar Port Arthur. Harvey eliminated the Bob Bowers Civic Center, so the choice was obvious. The next challenge was finding a speaker for our event. Our chairman for 2018, Jeff Hayes, turned to Verna Rutherford, at Motiva, to invite their President/CEO Dan Romasko to be the speaker He, graciously, accepted and we had an event. On the Monday, before the Wednesday banquet, Verna Rutherford called me and informed me that Motiva had a new President/CEO and his name was Brian Coffman. The good news was he agreed to speak at our event. The banquet proved to be one of the largest in the last 6 years with approximately 600 people attending.
Marian Ruiz, 2017 Chairperson of the Board, wrapped up her year by giving an outline of the accomplishments for 2017, thanking her directors, committee chairpersons and handing out awards for Ambassador of the Year and Business of the Year. She introduced Jeff Hayes as Chairperson for 2018. Jeff outlined his goals for 2018, introduced the new directors, presented Paul Beard with the Arthur E. Stilwell Award, and introduced the speaker. A wet, cold and challenging 2017 was officially closed and 2018 was opened with hope and excitement.
One of our exciting, successful programs that provides hope for many young people is our Intern Training Program. We are constantly working with Lamar State College, Port Arthur ISD, the Texas Workforce Commission and our members to find qualified employees to fill the many jobs available in our area.
Since the inception of the Intern Training Program we have trained 65 Port Arthur citizens. Of those 65, 48 are in the workforce/job field and employment, 5 are currently enrolled in college or technical school, and 3 are currently with us at the Chamber. We were unsuccessful in tracking the remaining 9. This interprets to an 83.3% success rate. Our latest success story is Ms. Jessica Gonzales a local Port Arthur Resident. She has been hired by Collins Engineers here in Port Arthur as an Office Administrator Assistant to Mr. Michael Koxlien.
This proves with proper technical and life skills training, coupled with the desire to learn and apply those skills, our local citizens can find work within our city.
The success of the Chamber’s Intern Training Program is due to our Financial Director Joe Tant. Joe is a trained Human Relations Director that takes the task of training these interns seriously. He has designed a comprehensive training program that include these key elements:
The Greater Port Arthur Chamber is entering our 118th year with excitement. If you wish to become part of this successful economic development organization, call 409-963-1107 and ask for Paige, Raquel, Joe or Bill.
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We ended 2017 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 2017 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 2017 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
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