Commissioner Johnny Trahan outlines keys, challenges to Orange County growth

Published 12:12 am Sunday, January 15, 2023

BEAUMONT — Orange County Commissioner Johnny Trahan knows the importance of enticement agreements that school districts and municipalities can offer  and industry, especially with Orange’s proximity to Louisiana.

“We’re constantly in competition with them,” Trahan said of Louisiana.

He was a speaker this week at the Economic Forecast Luncheon presented by the Southeast Texas Economic Development Foundation in Beaumont.

Trahan said local residents are getting tired of transportation construction but a little help with the funding could expedite some of the permitting.

Like Jefferson County, Orange County is seeking major expansion and other projects that will boost the economy.

Orange County is the setting up for the multi-billion dollar expansion of Chevron Phillips.

“It seems we’ve been talking about it the last 20 years, hit and miss, hit and miss. It finally got announced and was probably the worst kept secret in Southeast Texas,” Trahan said. “We watched them do their lane improvement project. It wasn’t site prep, it was lane improvement. We’ve been seeing the impact of it already.”

Along with the $8.5 billion plant comes an influx of housing — 1,300 home starts he said, adding he’s never seen anything close to this occur.

Then there’s Entergy’s Orange County Advanced Power Station that fuels future growth.

And years with a lack of an emergency room and hospital will be over this year with the construction of a new facility.

And these were a few of the upcoming projects in the county.

In his parting words, Trahan noted with gratitude the assistance received from Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan and also hoped Phelan can assist with other issues the county is dealing with.

The main issue is the rules for qualifications for assistance with flooding infrastructure. Trahan would like to see the rules changed so Orange County can qualify for funding.

“And especially on rural counties, and I consider Orange County a rural county. It makes it really hard. It’s almost as if the rules were made for metropolitan areas, and we need to make a few changes to what we have so we qualify for more of that funding,” Trahan said.
“But there’s a lot of good things going on and to reiterate, Speaker Phelan does a wonderful job getting some funding for Lamar State College Orange. They’re doing a great job getting folks ready to go to work in all these plants that we have coming up,” he said.

Kay DeCuir, Regional Economic Development Initiative chair, presented the panelists with questions regarding their own areas.

The keynote speaker for the event was Jesse Thompson, senior business economist Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas–Houston branch.

Kelly Prasser, director of external affairs for Sempra Infrastructure and Port Arthur LNG, offered Thompson a little help with his predictions early into the event, saying “we’ve got a little project called Port Arthur LNG down on Highway 87” expected to employ 5,000 construction workers, 200 permanent jobs and the company is working with Entergy to build more resiliency at the project and look at some green options.”

“I agree with Jesse,” Prasser said. “I keep hearing growth, strong performer and opportunity so that’s what I’m saying 2023 is going to be.

— Written by Mary Meaux