The Port Arthur News
As president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Inc. of Southeast Texas, John Bernard has a motto: “Get into politics or get out of business.”
“You’ve got to keep a close eye and stay involved if you want to earn a business,” Bernard, 64, said.
When Bernard took over as chairman of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce last year, he brought this motto with him. He has made it a priority to monitor legislation that has the potential to affect small businesses — because, he said, no matter what their size, all small business problems are universal.
“Whether you work in construction business or an ice cream shop, you have the same problems,” Bernard said. “You always have to keep your radar on for legislation in Austin, because, believe it or not, there are some people who want to legislate small businesses out of business. You have to monitor to see what could really hurt us, and then rally forces.”
Bernard worked closely with State Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, to educate Chamber members on Texas Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 1, a constitutional amendement that created the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing and priority projects in the state water plan. Voters approved the bill in the November election.
This bill was especially crucial to the success of local businesses, Bernard said, because refineries can be hampered by drought, which in turns affects the entire economy.
“We came close to the plants closing two years ago,” he said. “That affects layoffs, which affects mom-and-pop stores.”
2013 was a fantastic year for the Chamber, Bernard said. The annual Nederland Heritage Festival was a success and several new businesses, including Pop Family Popcorn and Daley’s Hunt n Fish, came to the city. Chamber President Jinni Akins also increased membership — although, Bernard said, the goal is for every business in Nederland to join the Chamber.
“The Chamber is your business family,” he said. “Small businesses have small budgets, and the Chamber can help you expand. You can buy ads, but the Chamber is no cost to you.”
Bernard would know. He has been a member of the Chamber for seven years. This year, he will serve as past chair, and when the allotted time has elapsed, he may even hold an office again.
“If I’m still around, I’d like to run again,” Bernard said.