SETEDD Grant Board President Dean Robinson addresses Rotary Club

Dean Robinson, president of the South East Texas Economic Development Administration District Grant Board, was special guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Beaumont meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15, at the MCM Eleganté Hotel.

Robinson was mayor of Silsbee for three terms and served as president of the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission. He was appointed by Governor Rick Perry to the Commission on Disaster Recovery and Renewal that was established after Hurricane Ike.
Wednesday, Robinson educated guests about economic development in Southeast Texas and the role that his organization plays in this process.

The South East Texas Economic Development District, or SETEDD, was created in the spring of 1993 to facilitate the flow of U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Development Administration grant and loan funds for creating new jobs and/or saving existing jobs in the Southeast Texas region.

The SETEDD works closely with the Southeast Texas Economic Development Foundation (SETEDF) to maintain the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) process in accordance with guidelines from the Economic Development Administration (EDA).

“We’re basically leveraging local money with federal money on EDA grants,” Robinson said. EDA provides grants to state and local government, Indian tribes, Economic Development Districts, public and private non-profits, universities and other institutions of higher education to support the development and implementation of economic development strategies for economically distressed communities. “Our role is to assist and encourage entities to apply for these monies when they come up. Really our main role in the region is to inform, keep people on track and participate with other entities like REDI.”

The Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) is a steering committee organized to oversee the regional objectives of the Southeast Texas Economic Development Foundation. It is the responsibility of REDI to fulfill the vision of regional economic growth through the collaboration of ideas brought forth by each community represented.

The purpose of CEDS is to establish a process that will help create jobs, foster a more stable and diverse economy and improve living conditions.

“The mission for the South East Texas Economic Development District is formulating a strategy,” Robinson said. “You have to take steps to (create) a complete strategy that reflects on our region (and includes) input from everybody as far as what they feel like we need to do.
“Every five years a region plan (the CEDS) is to be put together. Annually, it’s updated. The 2015 plan will be completely redone in 2020. We’ve put a lot more effort into the five-year plan with focus groups, a moderator for those types of talks. We bring in professionals. We invite the county and city government and the school districts to participate (in planning). From that we put the strategy together.”

With the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey recently having passed, one item the CEDS highlights is a timely topic to discuss. Although the region has shown resilience from numerous hurricanes in the past 25 years, the ongoing threat of this phenomenon to residents and the economy remains. According to Robinson, this threat must be recognized and an economic development regional plan that includes mechanisms to address a speedy recovery after a storm event like Harvey that lends to economic resilience must be developed.

“Your communities, your cities and your counties have to harden their facilities because they cannot respond to these types of disasters without having infrastructure in place,” Robinson told The Business Journal. “That could be generators, pumps, drainage … or a floodgate type of mechanism similar to what they do in The Netherlands. … Putting up higher flood control dikes in the essential industries like petrochemical — keeping the water from inundating and shutting down the facilities — the industrial complexes have to approach that, but there are others that are going to have to do it from a county or a city standpoint.
Like Southeast Texas, flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands, as one third of the country lies below sea level with the lowest point being 22 feet below sea level.

The country uses the Maeslantkering, a computer-controlled, moveable storm surge barrier to control flooding. According to, Maeslantkering has huge barrier doors that are actually floating pontoons that can be filled with water. The additional weight makes them sink and turns them into a massive barrier. After the situation returns to normal the water is pumped out of the pontoons, which are then stored in a dry location. Undeveloped dunes provide additional flood protection. The country also has a national system of drainage ditches, dikes, surge barriers and pumping stations to keep the low-lying parts dry for habitation and agriculture.

According a report by the Texas Comptroller the estimated lost business productivity from the storm resulted in a $16.8 billion decrease in gross state product.

Perhaps we can learn something from The Netherlands.