A Dangerous Message
Recently there has been discussion by Mayor Derrick Freeman about the creation of a Municipal Development District to generate sales tax revenue from petrochemical companies located in Port Arthur’s extra territorial jurisdiction. I understand his desire to find additional funding for repairing our infrastructure.
The problem is, any new tax would send a message to corporations that are considering expanding existing facilities or building new facilities our city is no long business friendly. Industry currently contributes approximately 30 million dollars through property taxes and agreements to our city directly. They generate the remainder of the city budget, indirectly, through jobs and incentives for all retail in Port Arthur.
It is a common thought, tax businesses instead of citizens, because businesses do not vote. Port Arthur is falling into that trap. Government tends to think that industry has no alternative but to accept this continued pressure and pay up. Industry does have options. For years they moved their operations and money off-shore and overseas. They also began to automate and streamline, thereby eliminating jobs. They can cancel expansions and new projects. Industries are corporations, owned by stockholders and governed by boards. If these stockholders do not see a fair return on their investments they can vote to delay or cancel spending on expansions and projects. With the latest federal tax cuts and reduction of regulations, industry is beginning to reinvest in the United States. Port Arthur needs to send the same message, lower taxes and less regulations instead of raising taxes and writing complex and, sometimes, unattainable, rules to qualify for tax breaks.
Currently in Port Arthur there are three new projects in the planning, totaling approximately 35 billion dollars. There are two expansions that could total 3 billion dollars. What does our new policy of increasing taxes say to their directors?
I suggest to our city council they come up with a message that makes those directors feel comfortable in investing in our city. I also suggest the council communicate with the business community on ways to better use the money we have. Our city has spent several hundred thousand dollars on plans to revitalize our city. The adage, “build it and they will come” is only true if what you build is accessible by good roads and doesn’t flood every time there is a heavy dew. I suggest we rebuild our deteriorated infrastructure and then “build it.” If we improve our infrastructure, private investors might just build it for us.
Speaking of infrastructure, on February 13, I was excited to attend a meeting with TXDOT to view plans for the redesign of the intersection of Highways 73 and 69. This old cloverleaf has served us well but with increasing traffic and speeds it has become dangerous. The new plans will have to go through extensive review, meetings with stakeholders and public hearings before it moves forward. Couple that with the high expense, I may never see it completed, but I can say I saw the plans. This project was included in the Chamber’s Transportation Plan, submitted to the City and TXDOT. last year. It is exciting to see them place the project on their agenda.
Infrastructure is important to private investors, but a trained workforce is also important. Golden Pass LNG is, once again, stepping up in the effort to train and hire local citizens at their future project. The proposed Golden Pass Products LNG export project is expected to create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs. It would also generate economic gains in retail, construction, manufacturing, business services and transportation. Golden Pass is committed to helping local residents and businesses be part of the growth.
To address the employment issue, Golden Pass has created a set of programs – THE OPPORTUNITY ROADMAP – to do just that. The program connects local residents with opportunities to advance their skills, careers and potentially gain employment with Golden Pass or its contractors, improve the skill sets and employability of the available local workforce pool. Golden Pass is also committed to hiring locally and creating benefits for the local community. To make this happen Golden Pass is sponsoring four, two-hour sessions. These will be held in April, May, June and August. The exact dates and locations will be available soon. One session was held in early March.
The opportunities continue in Port Arthur, Texas and the Greater Port Arthur Chamber is there to help you take advantage of them. If you wish to join the team call Paige Snyder at 409-963-1107.