PORT ARTHUR — By Ashley Sanders
The News staff writer
Houston did it. The sleepy college city of Bryan did it too.
Countless Texas towns and metro areas have revitalized their dilapidated downtown areas with loft suites and upscale housing. And the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce is hoping an upcoming housing boon could revitalize the city’s once enchanting downtown.
With more than 18,000 workers needed over the next four to six years to complete industrial expansion projects across the city, Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce President Verna Rutherford is optimistic that some real estate developers might pave the way for a new, trendy Procter Street area.
“This is the only seed I will plant,” Rutherford told a crowd of industry leaders and real estate developers Monday at the Housing and Lodging Initiative meeting held at Lamar State College-Port Arthur. “A good spring board idea would be to develop lofts downtown. What could be a better view than looking out at the water every morning?”
Just an idea that she was throwing out for consideration, Rutherford said the chamber is wanting to help any real estate developer, apartment owner or hotel proprietor pair up with a local industry group to make future housing plans for the influx of workers expected to start arriving in Port Arthur in 2007.
Expansions, new projects take flight
Opening up Monday’s informal meeting with a warm welcome to both the industry groups and real estate representatives, Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Bob Morgan told the crowd that it was “heartening” to see the kind of growth expected for Port Arthur.
“I have not seen anything like this in the history of Port Arthur,” Morgan said of the five refineries and chemical plants looking to make additional roots in the city.
Taking a few hours out of their day, representatives from area plants talked with real estate agents and housing companies during the meeting — each industry leader laying out the framework of their future project and the workforce requirements necessary to complete the job.
Speaking on behalf of Motiva Enterprises, Community Relations Coordinator Sue Parsely said the Port Arthur refining group was still optimistic that they will get the go ahead for a $3.5 billion expansion project. If Port Arthur is selected for the expansion, the plant will become the largest in the nation.
Once approved by the Motiva board of directors, the Port Arthur site could begin to see construction start as early as 2007 and peak in 2009.
To get the 600,000-barrel-per-day crude plant on-line by 2010, Motiva estimates they will need 4,500 people working on the project over the four year construction stint.
Those employees, whether local or from out-of-town, will need lodging.
Golden Pass LNG
Making headlines recently across the county and much of the state about their plans to begin work on their LNG terminal, representatives from Golden Pass LNG say they are ready to see their two and half years of planning the terminal come to fruition.
Tom Burger, vice president of development and operations, said Golden Pass LNG is already taking shape near Sabine Pass.
“We are ready to start dredging,” he told the audience. “We plan on hiring anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 people with an average of 600 workers for this three year project.”
Burger said he was unsure about housing requirements needed by the workers and that he assumed a per diem amount would be provided so the construction crews could find their own lodgings.
Representatives from Sempra LNG said they are about a year behind the Golden Pass LNG project, but that they too would most likely see construction begin on their project in late 2007 or early 2008.
With a maximum manpower need at 1,247 and an average workforce requirement of 530 people, Sempra is hoping that their LNG plant will be completely on line by 2011.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a permit in mid-June for Sempra to move forward with plans to construct the facility on the company’s 2,900 acres of land located near TX 87 and the ship channel.
The new LNG terminal will be capable of producing three billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.
While Port Arthur’ s Total expansion has not been approved by the company, Pat Avery, community relations director for the Port Arthur plant, said she is hopeful that her plant will secure a $1 billion deep conversion coker project.
Avery estimated that the project would require 3,500 workers over the course of three years.
“We want to emphasize that we want to hire in our own community,” she said. “We need to tell our young people who do not go to college how important the construction business is. After these plants are built, they will need maintenance and this creates additional jobs.”
Also not finalized, but never the less optimistic, Port Arthur’s Valero plant is hoping to secure an expansion project that would require 2,000 construction workers.
“It seems like if one company gets a good idea, they all do,” Jim Griffith, Valero spokesperson, said. “If approved, this project would get started in 2007 or 2008 and probably peak construction wise in 2009.”
Anyone who would like to offer a housing solution for the influx of workers expected to begin arriving in Port Arthur in 2007, call the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce at 963-1107.