Industry leaders provide inspiration

Published 10:10 am Monday, August 20, 2018

By Bobby Tingle

The Orange Leader

Gopher Industrial co-owner David Jones conducted a question and answer presentation by area industry leaders at the 2018 Industrial Exchange in the Dr. J. Michael and Bridget Shahan Events Center on the Lamar State College – Orange campus on Thursday.

“Orange touches the world,” said Jones as he introduced the panel members representing local companies who produce and sell products globally.

Jefferson Energy Companies Public Affairs Director Mark Viator said Orange County can be highly competitive due to its location. According to Viator we are strategically positioned to increase operating capacity and improve our competitive ranking with larger markets.

“We have lots and lots of acreage to expand,” said DowDuPont Sabine River Works Site Manager Jean Algate. “We have the real estate and we have the talent necessary for growth.”

The panel agreed on several issues. Safety is the number one concern daily in the operation of their respective facilities and in their choice of vendors and contractors.

They also agreed on the availability of local talent.

“Our wages in Orange are among the highest compared to other International Paper plants,” said International Paper Mill Manager Ed Barr. “Access to talent is one of the good things about Orange.”

Barr spoke highly of the availability of local individuals with the will and ability necessary to work in the Orange mill.

Safety is the top priority for local industry.

High in the priority are a skilled, motivated and innovative workforce.

“I like innovation,” said Algate who challenges her team to demonstrate the ability and dedication necessary to achieve at the level necessary to grow.

Jones posed several prepared questions and fielded questions from the audience of area business leaders.

The panel was asked about their plans to buy local.

“Being able to redefine hyper-local is a challenge we have pursued,” said Exxon Mobil Beaumont Area Public and Government Affairs Manager Ashley Smith Alemayehu.

According to the ExxonMobil website they approach this by employing and training a local workforce, supporting local suppliers and improving livelihoods of community members through local community investments.

“I want to partner with the education system as early as intermediate school,” said Algate as she stressed the need for developing local talent.

She also stressed the need to make Orange more attractive to potential employers by building ball fields.

“What do we go to Beaumont and Lake Charles for,” asked Barr. “We need to bring those things to Orange.”

The message from the panel was fairly unanimous: If you want to work for us come with a culture of safety.

If we are going to grow and develop we need an educated and skilled workforce.

If we are going to attract and keep talented individuals to Orange we need a community with the amenities that attract them to come and settle here.