STEPHEN HEMELT — Major plant news creates opportunity for Orange County growth

Published 12:12 am Sunday, November 20, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company bought more than 2,000 acres of land between its Orange facility and Texas 87 in 2019 after announcing Orange as a finalist for a proposed $8 billion expansion.

That certainly got a lot of hopes up for locals, as the benefit to Orange County and beyond would be immense.

So it was certainly great news on Wednesday when it became official that an $8.5 billion integrated polymers facility in Orange was green lit and publicly announced.

Company officials said it is expected to produce more than 500 full-time jobs, approximately 4,500 construction jobs and generate an estimated $50 billion for the community in residual economic impacts.

West Orange-Cove CISD weighed in on the update Friday, lauding the news from Chevron Phillips Chemical and QatarEnergy.

The school district indicated it shares in the preparations for the economic impacts of this development, as the district neighbor closest to the proposed facility.

“West Orange-Cove CISD is eager to partner with Chevron,” Superintendent Dr. Rickie Harris said. “We are educating and training tomorrow’s workforce to impact the future. The benefits of the Chevron Phillips facility will impact our community, and we want to train a workforce that supports that growth. Our focus is keeping jobs in the area by preparing our students for those positions.”

Harris said the district takes pride in offering endorsements in arts and humanities, business and industry, public service and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), as well as an Early College High School, numerous dual credit opportunities and support in college, career and military readiness.

District leaders pointed to their partnership with Lamar State College Orange, allowing students to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree from Lamar before the end of 12th grade.

Tuition, transportation and books are free for students in the program. A new class of first-year students is added annually.

West Orange-Cove CISD put out a release this week highlighting:

• More than 20 dual credit courses are available through a  partnership with Lamar State College Orange. These include free college courses in academic and career fields of the student’s choice. The most recent addition to dual credit courses includes offerings in maritime, process technology, welding, cosmetology, business, health science, and criminal justice. Upon successful completion, students earn a level 1 certificate in their field of study, allowing them to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation.

• West Orange-Stark High School continues to add courses and certifications that will prepare our students for careers in the local industry. WOCCISD is poised and ready to assist our community in developing a workforce that can meet the needs of this wonderful employment addition to our community.

It’s certainly great news that these major, global companies have chosen to invest in Orange County. It certainly has created an opportunity.

For this to be truly successful, we will have to maximize this development by training local students and workers for the skills needed to work these jobs. Then, we will need to have opportunities and avenues for these workers to settle and raise families in Orange County.

The last thing anyone wants in 15 years is to look up and see a majority of the new employees driving into Orange County each day to work, only to leave the area each evening to go home to Southwestern Louisiana or other parts away.

Stephen Hemelt is the publisher at Orange Newsmedia, which produces the Orange Leader and He can be reached at