Every chamber is challenged with getting and keeping new members. We are constantly asked to prove why a company should join or remain with the chamber. Of course, we can point to the networking and advertising opportunities such as lunches, breakfasts, morning mixers, on our website and in the Resource Guide. But some companies just don’t take advantage of these obvious and easy benefits.
What is most difficult is to prove the indirect benefit. For example, it is not unusual for a restaurant to tell me “The chamber hasn’t done anything for me.” What is frustrating is to have them tell me this in the middle of a restaurant filled with Valero, Motiva or Total employees. In its 118-year history this chamber has been responsible for helping locate the forbearers of these industries and keeping or expanding them here. These industries are responsible for the success of every business in Port Arthur and the only reason Port Arthur has a tax base.
Some of the, not so visible, efforts at supporting economic growth in the area are our, behind the scenes, action taken in support for the EDC, Port of Port Arthur and local industries. Several times each year our board and many of our 620 members make calls to, communicate or visit with city, county, state and federal agencies or commissions expressing our support or opposition to new regulations, grants, program funding, or laws.
Last month I mentioned our efforts to support Valero at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality public hearing. We arranged to fill the room with supporters for their new project in Port Arthur. Its important that the TCEQ see our area does want and support our industries.
In July we wrote letters of support to General Land Office’s Commissioner Bush for the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation’s application for program funding for Implementation of an Economic Revitalization Program under the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program.
We also wrote a letter to The Honorable Elaine Chao, U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington supporting the Port of Port Arthur's: Berth 6 Expansion Project to improve our region's multimodal freight transportation capabilities. Part of the letter stated, our port is critical to our local employment, regional economy and our nation's transportation infrastructure. The on-dock rail and berth extension project produces desirable national, regional and local long-term outcomes. With increased transportation congestion and new export opportunities for Southeast Texas there is a need for added public dock capacity on the Sabine-Neches Waterway. Area business supports this project. The port is seeking a $20 million grant for a $55 million project.
On Friday, July 20, Chairman of the Board, Jeff Hayes and I attended Senator John Cornyn’s Flood Protection Round Table to discuss the 800 million dollars allocated for flood control in Texas. Our interest was the money to be spent repairing the levee that protects Port Arthur, Groves, Nederland and Port Neches. We were also excited to learn that our neighbors in Bridge City and Orange would be getting a levee. Included in the discussion were the mayors from those cities, the Corp of Engineers, local industries and the Regional Planning Commission.
A good education system is vital to economic development. The Port Arthur Education Foundation, created and administered by the chamber, is a conduit, through which hundreds of thousands of dollars have been given to Port Arthur schools and to Lamar State College Port Arthur.
All of these, ongoing, efforts provide major benefits to our members and all citizens of Port Arthur and the Golden Triangle. While these benefits may not be as visible, they are real and benefit members and non-members alike. But without businesses that are willing to pay their fair share and invest in the chamber, these programs it would not be possible.
To make our presence known to or Texas elected state officials we will be working the other area chambers to continue our visit to Austin for Golden Triangle Days. Over the next 7 months I will include an invitation to everyone to participate in our Golden Triangle Days in Austin. This event is a great opportunity to meet and visit with state elected officials and mingle with several hundred Golden Triangle business leaders. This is a coordinated effort between the Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur Chambers of Commerce. That event will be in Austin on February 11-12 of 2019. A block of rooms is available at the Driskel and Continental Hotels in Austin. To register for this event, you may go online at www.gtdatx.com. Of course, you may stay at other hotels but buses to and from the sessions at the capitol and to the Tuesday night celebration will leave from the Driskel. All events and sessions will be from Tuesday morning until Tuesday night. Get your reservation early.
I was proud to attend the dedication of the new Dick Dowling Elementary building on Jade Ave in Port Arthur, Texas. I sat and watched Superintendent, Mark Porterie, introduce members of the school board, past principals, teachers, architect, builder and construction company representatives and thank them for making this day possible. Everybody at this event were excited about this modern facility, designed to give our students every opportunity to obtain a good education.
Dick Dowling is one of the last projects in a multimillion dollar bond program. The passage of these bond issues, paying our teachers higher salaries and benefits and hiring the best superintendent in Texas, is proof of the high level of support for education, given by the citizens of Port Arthur, Texas.
Our school system does an excellent job of offering low income students an opportunity to be the best they can be. In too many cases, the school does this with little or no parental help. I highlight low income because our district is comprised of about 95 percent low income kids. This problem is multiplied by the overbuilding of low income housing. Because parents want their children in school with children of the same economic status this forces them to seek campuses outside of Port Arthur. They also move to live in economic equal housing.
The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce is proud to have been one of the leaders in passing all the bond issues to make these new facilities possible. The local industry and business, that make up the membership of the chamber of commerce, generate and pays taxes to insure our schools are well funded.
The Chamber also created the Port Arthur Education Foundation and in the past year was the conduit through which $500,000.00 was given to Port Arthur ISD, Sabine Pass ISD and Lamar State College-Port Arthur. The partnership between the community and our schools are paying off and to those that say you can’t get a good education in Port Arthur schools, I say “baloney”
On the night of the day that Dick Dowling Elementary was dedicated, May 29th, the Port Arthur Education Foundation gave 12 scholarships to the top ten PAISD students and two top students from SPISD. These kids, all made good decisions, worked hard and with the support of their parents, graduated and are leaving for colleges across Texas. The scholarships given by the PAEF were added to scholarships already provided by the Port Arthur Industrial Group and other industries in our city. All these students were educated in Port Arthur schools and all received a great education. The Tuesday night event was the annual Stars Banquet sponsored by the Port Arthur Education Foundation and was attended by 200 area leaders and members of the chamber.
Another great project, Golden Triangle Days in Austin, is a coordinated effort between the Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur Chambers of Commerce. That event will be in Austin on February 11-12 of 2019. A block of rooms is available at the Driskel and InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotels in Austin. To register for this event, you may go online at www.gtdatx.com. Of course, you may stay at other hotels but buses to and from the sessions at the capitol and to the Tuesday night celebration will leave from the Driskel. All events and sessions will be from Tuesday morning until Tuesday night. Get your reservation early.
I was proud to attend the ground breaking for Total’s Ethane Cracking Unit on June 4, 2018. This 2.7-billion-dollar project will provide construction jobs and new permanent jobs for our area. It is a new chapter for this community minded corporation. Total has a track record of supporting community projects, especially projects that benefit our educational entities.
Entergy announced a rate increase for their customers. The PUC requires ETI to file every 4 years. This is typically a 6-month process before the PUC reaches a final decision and new rates go into effect. One side note. Due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act the federal corporate tax rate was lowered. So ETI is lowering he federal tax rate it collects from customers from 35 percent to 21 percent. This result in $200 million flowing back to customers over the next two years.
A packed room greeted staff member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at the public hearing on Valero’s new project in Port Arthur. Except for 4 or 5 people all were there to support Valero. While the rules of the TCEQ limited full statements in the informal session, our members managed to get their point across. WE SUPPORT JOB, NEW TAXES, AND PROGRESS. If the chamber and our members thought that Valero’s new project would threaten our environment we would not have been there. But the fact is, because of Valero and the Port Arthur Industrial Group, Port Arthur, Texas and Jefferson County are one of the few attainment areas on the Gulf Coast. We meet every environmental air standard. We hope the TCEQ will move this permit through rapidly and we see Valero building soon.
As this column illustrates our city and your chamber are supportive of education and industry. Because of industry our school districts can continue to offer modern facilities and high salaries to our teachers. If you want to be part of a team that is making a difference call Paige Snyder at 409-963-1107 or go to www.portarthurtexas.com and check us out.
I began my chamber career in 1976, in Jasper, Texas. I moved from there to Garland, then Pasadena and to Port Arthur in 2011. In each of those towns I have met wonderful people who volunteer their time. Most, volunteer cheerfully. Some volunteer out of duty or job and every now and then, out of love. In Port Arthur, Texas that was Carlita Zummo. This little lady could light up a city block with her smile and energy. Every time I met her she would smile, hug me and ask about Nellie, my wife. She loved to sit on boards and committees. She just wanted to make a difference. She did. Carlita was part of the original Port Arthur ISD Foundation. She was a founder of the Port Arthur Education Foundation and sat on the board, attending almost every meeting and event until illness forced her to miss. I was sad, in the early part of May to learn of her death. A light went out in Port Arthur and I, the Foundation and the Chamber will miss this wonderful lady.
On May 4th the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Business Council hosted the first annual Golden Pass LNG Golf Tournament. Twenty-two golf teams enjoyed a day of golfing fun, including beverages and food supplied by Construction Managers of Southeast Texas, and cooked by Figueroa's Towing and Auto Parts and Architect’s Studio. The Golf Committee was manned by the Hispanic Business Council. They did a great job of getting sponsors and teams and working on the day of the tournament. Plans for 2019 are already underway with changes that are expected to attract more golf teams and cooking vendors. The winners of this first tournament were STI Group.
Plans for 2019 Golden Triangle Days in Austin are underway. The date will be February 11 – 12, 2019. Hotel rooms have been blocked, meeting facility reserved, and session rooms applied for. Please watch your e-mail for sponsor forms and registration forms. The staffs of the Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur Chambers are working with a great committee to secure entertainment and speakers for the event.
A new program the chamber is studying will be known as the Young Emerging Leaders. Their Mission Statement reads: The Greater Port Arthur Young Emerging Leaders will work to develop Port Arthur and the Golden Triangle area’s future leaders by providing ambitious young emerging leaders with the opportunity to build relationships, further develop themselves as professionals and or entrepreneurs, serve the community, and engage with political, civic and business leaders. Admission to this group will be reserved for emerging leaders ages 21-40. The program will be designed to provide social and professional opportunity, connect, engage and develop our community’s current network of young leaders and entice others to relocate to our community. To provide and opportunity for young leaders to expand their social and professional network through unique events and workshops. It will be an opportunity to learn how to become a leader and to use social communications and events to expand your connections and opportunities. Once this program is fully designed there will be an effort to notify, enroll and involve all young emerging leaders that wish to participate.
Your Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce as always is moving forward.