From the desk of Bill McCoy (June 2017)

A good transportation system is one of the most important tools needed for economic development. The movie “Field of Dreams” made famous the line, “Build it and they will come.” That might be true, but to come, they must have good roads on which to travel. To help the city get in line for highway funding, the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce presented the City Council with its list of potential road and street projects. These projects were designed to unite Port Arthur from the north to south to west and east, lower speed limits at dangerous intersections and allow better access from north of Highway 73 to Proctor. It is the Chamber’s belief that improving access to Procter would increase the possibility of attracting private investors for the renovation of downtown Port Arthur.

There are TxDOT funds available for improving transportation that increases safety, environmental protection and economic development, but the city must adopt a plan and present it to TxDOT for funding. Once these projects are officially in line for funding, the Chamber can then lobby for them to be included in TxDOT’s long-range funding plan.

After our presentation to the City Council, Chamber Transportation Committee Chairman Ron Arceneaux and I met with representatives from the Engineering and Planning firm of Freese and Nichols, city planning, the city manager and TxDOT to discuss including our transportation plan in the city’s long-range plan. At their next meeting, the council discussed a resolution to ask TxDOT to begin a study to reduce the speed limit at the intersection of Highway 73 and Highway 69. This cloverleaf is one of the most dangerous intersections in Jefferson County and is one of the projects the Chamber suggested be redesigned.

The following week, I sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry asking him to expedite the signing of the last permit needed by Golden Pass LNG to begin selling liquid natural gas to those countries needing it. It was a major coincidence that I wrote the letter two days before he signed it. I know the permit was on his desk to be signed and my letter had nothing to do with his action, but I’m taking a page out of a politician’s handbook and taking full credit for getting this document signed. Aside from building my ego, the signing of the permit marked an exciting day for our area. Once all evaluations of the existing market are complete, I am sure Golden Pass LNG will decide to start the $12 billion project that will bring approximately 6,000 construction jobs to Port Arthur.

Lamar State College Port Arthur is facing a serious reduction in state funding if our local state leaders don’t intervene in the budget process. Two years ago, college president Dr. Betty Reynard faced similar challenges and was forced to reduce staff and eliminate some sports programs. She cut her budget by 14 percent to balance the budget at that time. To face another million-dollar-plus reduction to a bare bones budget will create more challenges to our college. In those two years, Dr. Reynard has seen the completion of new dorms, the start of a new Technology Center and an increase in enrollment. It would be a shame to have all this momentum threatened by further budget cuts. We will keep contacting our state leaders and encourage each of you to do the same. They’re working on it but need all the help they can get.

In other action, the Board voted to move forward to seek 5 Star Accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Board members expressed their excitement on the Chamber being recognized as a 4 Star Chamber but felt the 5th star was in reach by the end of 2017.

The Port Arthur Education Foundation recognized 15 top academic stars from PAISD and SPISD at the 2017 Stars Banquet. Three hundred areas businesses sponsored and attended this event, recognizing those students from these two area districts that have excelled in their academic lives. Each of the students also received scholarships to the college of their choice.

It was a good month for the Chamber. As school ends, vacations start and temperatures rise, we will be looking forward to another summer in Port Arthur. If you want to be part of the team, call Paige Snyder at (409) 963-1107, ext. 3.