From the desk of Bill McCoy (February 2017)

The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce is two months into 2017 and celebrating great news from Lamar State College Port Arthur. The Sheila McCarthy Umphrey Industrial Technology Building is under construction. This project would not be possible without generous funding from individuals and companies. To date, the companies that have made donations include the Port Arthur Industrial Group, Golden Pass Terminal LLC and Golden Pass Refining LLC, Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA Inc. and BASF. The campus genuinely appreciates the support it receives from so many individuals and companies. Donations make a significant difference to the future health of the campus.
Dr. Betty Reynard was also excited to announce that LSCPA was recognized by the Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence as one of the Top 150 community colleges in the United States. The Aspen Institute recognizes institutions with exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and access and success for minority and low-income students.
A good education system is one of the main goals for the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce. In the three years we have operated the Port Arthur Education Foundation, the community has contributed almost $150,000 for scholarships and teacher grants. The New Year promises to be even better. Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Bob Bowers Civic Center, the Port Arthur Education Foundation Luncheon will feature Dr. Betty Reynard of LSCPA, Dr. Mark Porterie of Port Arthur ISD and Andy Bates of Sabine Pass ISD speaking on education in Port Arthur. Barbara Phillips of Valero has agreed to be the chairperson of the board for the foundation, and Joe Tant is the executive director. The proceeds from this luncheon go to the foundation for teacher grants.
Education and transportation are important, but so is providing networking events for our members to meet and get to know area businesses and industries. Perhaps the biggest networking event held by the Chamber is the Annual Banquet. The 117th Annual Banquet of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber was held Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Bob Bowers Civic Center. Five hundred and twenty guests registered for this event and witnessed Marian Ruiz of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP take over as board chair. Retiring directors were recognized along with Ambassador of the Year Blaine Caillier with First Financial Bank and the Business of the Year, Elizabeth Cravens’ Mid-America Contractors LLC. Vicki Derese of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP was also recognized as the outgoing chair of the Port Arthur Education Foundation.
Besides recognizing outgoing directors and officers, the Chamber was proud to award Hargie Faye Jacobs-Savoy, a lifelong resident of Port Arthur, the Arthur E. Stilwell Award. The 2016 recipient, Jeff Hayes, who was assisted by outgoing Board Chair Barbara Phillips, presented the award. The annual banquet is an event designed to highlight the Chamber’s year and show appreciation for those that made it happen. It also offers networking for those attending.
Legislation is another important goal of the Chamber, and on March 5, 6 and 7, Golden Triangle Days in Austin will spotlight the legislative agenda for the area. This is a combined effort between Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur chambers. We are joined by Nederland, Groves and Port Neches to host 350 area leaders at events with our state legislators. Golden Triangle Days begins with a reception at the Driskill Hotel on Sunday evening. This informal event allows networking with area business leaders, our legislative officials and their staff. Monday, there will be five sessions at the Robert E. Johnson Building behind the capitol. These sessions will cover healthcare, education, transportation, environment and infrastructure. Guest speakers will address legislation for each of these topics. Monday will wrap up with a party at the Pecan Springs Ranch outside of Austin, and will include networking, food, beverages and live music provided by Shinyribs. Buses will be available for transportation, and private parking will be available for those that wish to drive their own vehicles. South Southwest Austin is there the next weekend, so all the in-town facilities were reserved.
This event is very important to our area. With oil prices down and reduction in property taxes, funding for education and transportation is going to be tight. We must visit with our elected representatives to ensure the Golden Triangle is known and our projects get funded.
If you wish to register for any of these events or become part of a 117-year-old organization that represents business in our area by concentrating on education, transportation and legislation, call Paige Snyder at (409) 963-1107.