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.