Kevin R. McCarthy for Jefferson County Commissioner

Jefferson County Good and Bad

You know, we have an amazing dichotomy here in Southeast Texas. It’s truly awesome when you think about it, however, it is NOT good for us. Let me explain.

This Port Arthur News article about the Valero expansion project is great news.  Port Arthur will be one of the largest refining and petrochemical centers in the US. There’s going to be another 2.2 billion dollars spent on a refinery here. That’s great!!! Until reality sets in.

We now have three major plant expansion projects underway and the LNG terminal is almost finished. We have a huge number of people working in construction right now. What happens when all the projects are completed (approximately two years from now)? That Valero project with up to 2000 construction workers, will be a permanent job for 30 people. That’s less than 1 in 10 for most of our area high schools’ graduating classes.

I ‘m so pleased that our area citizens will have jobs… wait, what’s this, most of the workforce will be hired from out of town and will be staying in the 300 new hotels we have built in the last few years?  I heard one news source talking about a company creating a ghetto (used in the classical sense of the word, not the derogatory version)** for the huge number of Indian welders coming over here to work on a project. So SE Texans won’t be getting as many jobs as we suspected.

I can’t believe (heh) that Judge Walker is quoted as saying the expansion project is “unbelievable”. Let me explain how economics works… listen close, I might have to do this again if I’m elected. Gasoline is $3 a gallon with it estimated to hit $4 a gallon this summer. At this point, major oil companies are making more profits than they ever have before. Since gas will probably never go down to $2 a gallon again, it’s time to make some money by increasing production.  It’s unbelievable to me that anyone would not see this coming.

PA City Manager Fitzgibbons is another one with a seemingly questionable grip on reality.  “It means more jobs”… man, have you seen the signs?  Almost every business in SE Texas is begging for people to come work.  Lowe’s is hiring, Walmart is always hiring, we’re getting new restaurants in, dozens of banks and hotels have been built.  There are tons of jobs out there.  OK, these jobs might not be making $25 an hour with overtime pay, but it’s a job with benefits.

Many of the people, especially the high school and college students, here in SE Texas seem to think that minimum wage is beneath them.  Most of my students expect to be making 6 figures by the time they are 24.  We don’t have high unemployment because there aren’t any jobs.  We have high unemployment because the people don’t want to work.

Ms. Reid of the PA Chamber of Commerce understands what I’m talking about.  She’s already considering what’s going to happen 6 months to 2 years from now.  That’s a leader.  We have to keep moving forward.
The stuff now is done, the rank and file can take care of that business.  A leader needs to be figuring out what comes next and where the next 2.2 billion dollar project is coming from and how to make sure we get it here instead of somewhere else.

I have some ideas for major projects that will continue our construction programs, help our economy, and our environment.  Let me try.

BTW: Don’t get me wrong, these projects are still pretty good for our area.  It could be better, but it could be a lot worse too.

** The word ghetto [any segregated mode of living or working that results from bias or stereotyping] originally applied to the areas of European towns where Jews lived. It has been associted with slums or poor, densely populated areas mainly because the Jews of the time (middle ages) couldn’t get decent jobs and afford to keep their area nice.

March 1, 2008 - Posted by | Jefferson County, Politics, Port Arthur, Texas

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