STEPHEN HEMELT — Orange County has billion-dollar opportunity following major plant groundbreaking

Published 12:02 am Saturday, March 18, 2023

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Golden Triangle Polymers pulled out all the stops last week with an Orange County ground breaking ceremony celebrating a new $8.5 billion Marlex polyethylene plant.

With a goal to employ approximately 500 full-time workers by 2026, there is plenty to be excited about.

That was the backdrop behind last week’s announcement, which Orange Newsmedia had the pleasure of attending.

Following formal remarks and before promotional photographs, Mayor Larry Spears Jr. shared some thoughts with us.

He said many people tried to say Orange was dead five years ago.

He knew that wasn’t the case.

“Along with all the other things that are happening right now across the City of Orange and the county, I am elated and very thankful,” Spears said. “I know God has been good to us, and it is just beginning. There is more to come.”

Those words stuck with me as I left the press conference and returned to the office to report the story for that afternoon and the next print edition of the Orange Leader.

Spears was making a point that the grand celebration on March 7 wasn’t the destination but only an important marker if the city, surrounding communities and Orange County are going to reach their full potentials.

It’s not simply enough that this multi-national project is locating in our backyard. For this to be a true success, local residents and businesses need to secure gainful employment and contracts while securing roots in nearby neighborhoods.

That comes with proper training and strong hiring processes that provide opportunities for local people.

Almost lost in the Golden Triangle Polymers official groundbreaking ceremony was the announcement of a $1.3 million donation to Lamar State College Orange to facilitate the purchase of a Polaris Hands-on-Training 3 Glycol Distillation Trainer, from which LSCO Industrial Systems students can train on relevant equipment.

Company officials said such a donation is nearly unprecedented.

Following the announcement, LSCO President Dr. Tom Johnson told Orange Newsmedia many of the college’s teachers are retired from the industry field and, therefore, bring real-world experience from the plants.

“That translates into you learning from the masters of those areas,” he said.

Once the training is done, hiring then becomes a crucial next step, so a week after the groundbreaking, Golden Triangle Polymers representatives were back in Orange County with more news.

The company donated $200,000 to Orange County to expand its economic development program. Orange County Economic Development Corporation will now work closely with area chambers of commerce to host public supplier and vendor fairs.

Small-business owners will also be able to work with Orange County staff to learn what qualifies a small business to be an approved vendor or supplier on any major project.

Golden Triangle Polymers Company made a second $200,000 donation to Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas to expand workforce development efforts in the Golden Triangle.

An online job database created by Workforce Solutions includes available jobs from the project and a list of the primary companies carrying out engineering, procurement and construction work.

Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas can be accessed locally at 2415 N 16th St. in Orange, where job seekers can go for basic screening, online application assistance and referral to local education institutions if additional training or certification is needed.

As part of the Local First program, Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas will also host job fairs that are free and open to the public.

This world-class business development is clearly an amazing opportunity for those in and around Orange County.

And it’s not too early for our community’s students to start thinking longterm.

Hours after last week’s groundbreaking, West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Rickie Harris announced his team looks forward to “educating and training tomorrow’s workforce in partnership with CP Chem and the growth it will bring to our local communities.”

That makes a lot of sense. The real work for area officials is making sure local residents take advantage of this business boom.

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