Since 1899 the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce has lead the efforts to create an environment that attracts business and the people that work in these businesses to Port Arthur. A good education system is vital in economic development, thus the reason the chamber is joining forces with the Port Arthur Public School Foundation to create the Port Arthur Education Foundation. The PAEF has been recognized by the state of Texas and has filed for recognition by the IRS. Hopefully we will receive the 501-3C designation from the IRS in early September. The new foundation will offer grants to the teachers of Port Arthur ISD and Sabine Pass ISD. These grants will be awarded to fund teaching programs not funded by the school districts. While the purpose of the foundation is creating advanced teaching programs for our students we will continue to offer a limited number of scholarships.
The foundation will have two events each year dedicated to recognizing the top students and special programs within the schools. The Stars Banquet has been for the purpose of recognizing the top ten students in PAISD. This event may be modified to recognize the award winning students and to award scholarships in all Port Arthur School Districts. The Stars Banquet will also be expanded to raise funds for the foundation. The State of the School Luncheon, in the past, was an event designed to allow the Superintendent of PAISD to deliver a message on the programs and progress of our school district and to recognize the Career and Technical Education students. Again, this event may be modified to include Sabine Pass ISD. We sometimes forget that Sabine Pass is a part of Port Arthur and needs our support just as PAISD does.
Once we have received the IRS designation we will begin our total funding program. We will forward brochures to our members. This brochure outlines our mission and goals for the year and provides sponsorship levels. We have also created a website that allows anyone to contribute to this organization. The website will have forms that will allow teachers to apply for grants online. There will be photos of the foundation activities and notices of special events as well as a list of our board members and officers. There are no members of the organization and you do not have to be a member of the chamber to participate in this foundation. The chamber, currently, administers the foundation activities and finances at no charge so 100 percent of the contributions benefit the foundation.
Besides education, transportation is a vital part of economic development. In August the chamber passed two resolutions to encourage Texas Department of Transportation to consider improvements to our highways. The first concerned the cloverleaf at highways 73 and 69. This intersection is ranked third in the county for accidents. The second was Return of the Business Route designation to Woodworth, Procter and Houston Avenue. Getting Woodworth, Procter and Houston Avenues returned to the designation of Business Route could allow for TXDOT resources to be directed to repairs and maintenance on these streets. Both projects would be long term but all highway projects take a long time. The Chamber Transportation Committee under the direction of committee chairman Ron Arceneaux met with TXDOT and the city to get begin the process of getting these projects considered for future funding.
The chamber is also moving along on its quest to become an accredited chamber by the U.S. Chamber. One of the requirements is a Strategic Plan. So by the end of September and the first week in October we will have held our two day strategic planning sessions and forwarded the results to the U.S. Chamber. The chamber will be inviting our newly elected board members, current board members and selected community leaders to join us in this important event to determine the direction of our chamber in the future. The strategic planning sessions will take the place of our usual board retreat and will be held in Port Arthur.