PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 19, 2014

Jobs are here, Cornyn says

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — United States Sen. John Cornyn believes that the folks in Washington, D.C., would benefit from visiting places like Southeast Texas.

That’s why he visited Lamar Institute of Technology on Tuesday for a roundtable discussion to hear firsthand accounts about the college’s collaboration with local business leaders and industry partners to prepare students for high-salaried careers in the region’s thriving petrochemical industry.

With legislation in the works that would ensure the deepening of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, and various expansions in Jefferson County — including several in Mid County, such as Golden Pass’ LNG expansion in Sabine Pass and Huntsman Corporation’s expansion in Port Neches — business and industry leaders said that the time is ripe for Southeast Texans to snag well-paying jobs.

“We’re very happy to be living right here in Southeast Texas, and the quality of our workforce is coming from the arena with LIT,” Robert Bilnoski, HR manager at Golden Pass LNG, said. “That’s why we’re going to the high schools right now trying to let them know, ‘Guys, this is where you need to be if you want a high-paying job.’”

Shaun Davis, executive director of the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission, said that the high unemployment numbers in Southeast Texas have little to do with the availability of jobs.

“We still have an unemployment number that’s too high, but it’s not because there’s no opportunity here,” Davis said. “And many of us believe that institutions like LIT are the answer.”

 The community leaders also took the time to share their concerns with Cornyn, including the Affordable Care Act, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act — which authorizes construction of the proposed Sabine-Neches Waterway channel improvement project and passed Congress in October — and federal government involvement in higher education.

Overall, Cornyn said the talk gave him a sense of optimism about Southeast Texas and its industry.

“While around the country people are looking for work, here there are plenty of good jobs — in fact more than the workforce is able to keep up with,” Cornyn said. “This is a very optimistic, hopeful, encouraging success story that we’re hearing told here today.”

With the current crisis looming in Russia, Cornyn said that Southeast Texas could play an important role in teaching the rest of the nation about dependency on Russia for gas.

“The problem is, we’ve been dependent on Russia to put pressure on Syria and Iraq, and now the tables have turned,” he said. “In the mid to long term, we need to find an alternate source of energy that will undermine the stranglehold that Russia has on Europe. That’s going to create a lot of jobs here in Southeast Texas.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA