The Texas petrochemical industry is booming. Houston is doing excellent business, but the same is true of nearby Port Arthur, a growing city with a reputation for supporting and welcoming investors.
Thanks to the strong petrochemical industry in the US, many businesses are flocking to those states that have seen the most activity in oil and gas. In particular, Texas is leading the way, with major oil and gas hubs in Houston. However, a short trip east along the coast will find a burgeoning port city set to rival its bigger neighbor.
Port Arthur has steadily grown over the last decade, welcoming international businesses that cater for the petrochemical industry. With a first-class infrastructure and education system, Port Arthur is attracting considerable interest worldwide. The Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation was formed to oversee this growth. European CEO caught up with the group’s CEO, Floyd Batiste, to find out why this city is proving to be so attractive to businesses.
Is Port Arthur’s educational base working well with the petrochemical companies in the area?
Because the petrochemical industry has been in place here for some time, our workforce builds, operates and maintains its refineries. That takes a lot of skill. We have local colleges, including Lamar State College and the Lamar Institute of Technology, which focus on training people for the industry. It’s a good fit with the local universities, as they tailor their courses to the needs of the industry.
We actually have an industrial group that sits down with the educators and makes them aware of their needs.
How developed is the city’s infrastructure?
I think Port Arthur is the best-kept secret in the world. We have a port that the federal government has approved to be expanded and deepened to 48ft, where it can bring in larger ships. We have a rail system, the I-10 highway, and we’re only 90 miles from Houston International Airport. We also have a local airport that connects to Houston and Dallas. It makes us a good place to be.
The potential has still not been realized, though. I think it’s because we’re a small community. What you hear about is Houston and Dallas – the big metropolitan zones. However, to get into Houston port, sometimes ships have to sit out for 14 to 21 days, whereas they’re only 28 miles on the water from Port Arthur, so could get it done in a day. I’m receiving calls from the Houston market. We’re trying to get the word out to global businesses that we can make it more convenient and time-efficient; we are here and we have the infrastructure.
What business facilities are there in Port Arthur?
We have a 300-acre business park complete with all the infrastructure businesses need. 10 years ago there was nothing there, but today there are about 15 different international businesses. We have focused on our primary customers in the petrochemical industry. Port Arthur EDC is considering purchasing an additional 200 acres of land, because currently the 300 acres we have is being taken up, and will soon have very few vacancies.
How will Port Arthur EDC support the growth of businesses that invest in the city?
Because of the expansion of industry in our area, the service industry has picked up a lot, especially in retail. Ten years ago we had three or four hotels, today we have about 15. That’s from demand. There’s growth in the retail and service sectors, reflecting the prosperity of the area. One of the things Port Arthur EDC is doing is providing incentives to businesses that relocate in our community. We have three factors we look at: capital investment brought to the community, job creation, and wages.