Orange County celebrates economic development

Published 1:46 pm Saturday, May 11, 2019

From staff reports

Approximately 200 area business leaders and elected officials were treated to chicken fried steak and an overview of the process for attracting industry to local communities Wednesday.

The luncheon was held at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center and featured a presentation from the Office of Governor Greg Abbott.

Business and Community Development and Economic Development and Tourism Director Nicole Ryf explained how local folks work with her office to attract jobs and grow local economies.

Department of Strategic Business Development and Economic Development and Tourism Project Development Coordinator Tad Curtis accompanied her.

Ryf and Curtis toured the area prior to the luncheon to gain a first-hand perspective of the opportunities available in the county.

Area leaders and elected officials, according to Ryf, are well versed in the realm of economic development.  

Dow Site Director Jean Algate opened the session and noted the strong attendance and display of a sense of community within area leaders.

Economic success is built on a skilled workforce, diversity, positive business environment and innovation according to Algate.

Texas provides these components and has been named the best place to locate by CEOs for several years and counting.

Ryf stated Abbot ‘brags’ the state of Texas beats Putin since the Texas economy is larger than the nation of Russia.

Texas is the 10th largest economy.

Ryf detailed the many ways Orange County is equipped to serve industry including a deep-water port, major rail lines, and interstate highways.

She stressed the need to educate and equip people by partnering with schools to build a strong workforce.

Curtis highlighted the importance of energy in our local economy.  He noted activity at the Port of Beaumont on the Orange County side of the Neches River where energy flows from crude suppliers to refiners to retail markets.

The transfer of energy raw materials and finished products at ports across Texas plays a big role in making Texas the number one exporting state in the United States.

Curtis stressed the importance of the local community engaging in the economic development process to be successful.  The state can help, but locals drive success.

The state can provide leads connecting prospective investors with local agencies.  Sometimes the turnaround is quick. Curtis has been known to request information at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon with at 5 p.m. deadline.  

Jessica Hill agreed.

Investors begin the process by eliminating prospective sites.  Requirements for consideration are stringent. If you miss the mark, you are scratched from the list.

Once you make the cut then it is up to the local municipalities and county to provide the information to sell your site.

It requires knowing what you have to offer and being proud of your local amenities.

Incentives in the form of tax rebates are necessary.  Although you cannot make a bad site good with incentives, good sites must offer them to compete.

That said, Ryf noted, Texas offers the least amount of monetary incentive per job acquired compared to other states.

The reason Texas has a lot to offer such as infrastructure and a solid workforce.

Ryf and Curtis stressed over and over the need to build partnerships between industry, school districts and institutions such as Lamar State College-Orange to provide a trained and motivated workforce.

Ryf and Curtis noted our local people ‘get it’ stating we are fortunate to have strong, knowledgeable and motivated leaders moving Orange County down the road of economic development.