It has been a challenging year for Port Arthur business. While the city has seen an increase in retail, restaurants and hotels the oil industry is struggling with low oil prices. Exxon and Shell are laying off employees, expansions are on hold and cities are wondering what their tax rolls will look like through the next year.
Our government increases regulations and taxes at a time when the money spent and paid is needed to invest in more efficient and cleaner manufacturing methods. Out government is spending 500 million each year than our total production generates. 2016 will demand that we look at our mistakes in the past and move forward in a different direction, but what direction? I think that lack of direction is what is driving the turmoil in this year’s presidential race. Voters are afraid and uncertain but know we cannot continue on this bankruptcy path.
The chamber’s goals for the New Year will be the same with education and transportation leading the way. We will continue expanding our Port Arthur Education Foundation with a goal of funding teacher grants for innovative teaching programs and scholarships for the top students in PAISD. We will assist in any training programs designed to graduate students ready for collage or employment.
Better access to all parts of our city is a vital tool for economic development. We will continue working with Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Port Arthur to improve our streets and roads. When money is available we will also push for improvement of our water, sewer and drainage facilities. If you can’t get to a location you can’t develop that location. We still have areas of Port Arthur that flood in the smallest rain. The new city manager is aware of these issues and the council is supporting efforts to address them as money is available.
I am reading a book about Port Arthur history from the beginning through 1940. I haven’t finished it yet but the one reoccurring factor is the push to build, improve, attract people and make money. Very few of the growth spurts of the United States were for philanthropic reasons, almost all of them were so profit could be made. Single families sold their possessions and moved to open land so they could have more. They faced ruin and death to find a better living for their families. That is what Stilwell and Gates were doing when they built and fought over this land to build Port Arthur.
That individual capitalistic drive has been lost, except in the computer or gadget market. That is one of the reasons it is hard to renovate or redevelop old downtown areas there is little profit to be made. Downtown Galveston was redeveloped by George Mitchell. His love of the island lead to a historical trust to continue after his death. Even with Mitchell’s money it has been a struggle for this area. Port Arthur has no Mitchell so the city has spent tax money on study after study in an effort to redevelop this historical area. The bank building at 501 Proctor has been renovated and is indeed a beautiful building. It looks as if it will be fully leased by the middle of 2016 with the Economic Development Corporation on the bottom floor, the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce occupying half of the third floor and two private companies taking up the rest. But somewhere there must be an entrepreneur that risks their money in the hopes of making a profit before this area can flourish. The government is not the long term answer. That goes for the country as well. The disappearance of the private entrepreneur in America is one of the main reasons for our slowed economy. We have too many people that think the government is the answer for all their ills and the government is glad to let them think that.
We are gradually turning to the government to raise our children, provide our clothes, give us medicine, and regulate our food. We are giving away the rights that we used to fight to keep. The end result of this path is slavery. We lose our dignity and our will to be better. We become willing to sit and wait for the government to care for us and we lose our hope.
I’m hoping 2016 sees the return of fair oil prices, a rise in entrepreneurs, a new direction in Washington and a return of self reliance, pride and integrity.
The chamber will continue to be the voice of free enterprise as it has for the past 116 years. We will continue to rely on our 600 members to fund our programs and to tell us what programs they want. If you want to be part of an organization of Port Arthur business leaders call me at 409-527-0889.