, Port Arthur, Texas

June 16, 2014

EDITORIAL: Council should take another look at ZeoGas proposal

The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — The door may not be closed on a $1.2 billion project the Port Arthur City Council had seemingly rejected at last week’s meeting. ZeoGas and its plan to build a facility to turn natural gas into sulfur-free, low-benzene gasoline will be the topic at a closed meeting of the Council on Tuesday, and for the good of the city our representatives need to find a way to help the start-up company make Port Arthur its home.

Timothy D. Belton, president and CEO of ZeoGas, seemed surprised that the city council would turn down a project that offers so many benefits to the community, even if no property taxes were paid for 10 years. According to Belton, the two-year construction phase would generate $2.2 billion in economic activity.  Sales taxes would put $2.5 million into the city’s coffers. A water contract would bring the city $5 million a year, with the possibility of that expanding to $15 million. During construction, 3,000 people would be employed. Once operational, the plant would provide between 300 and 600 jobs.

That would be a significant addition to Port Arthur’s industrial landscape. It’s not often we add a new industrial facility on the scale of Huntsman or Chevron-Phillips. That’s the possibility.

ZeoGas’ Belton also said that he first met with Port Arthur officials in December then ran into roadblocks getting subsequent meetings arranged. Port Arthur has an EDC that is expert in working with manufacturing prospects for the city. It would seem natural for companies proposing to locate in Port Arthur to be referred to the EDC, which could make sure the city’s best effort was made to attract new manufacturing jobs before the city council ever becomes involved. A company wanting to spend a billion dollars being turned down by the council should never happen. The news that Port Arthur is not business friendly will spread like wildfire in industrial circles.

If Port Arthur grants total tax abatement for 10 years what has it lost? Nothing. It’s not getting those taxes now. But it’s possible that in 10 years a new taxpayer would come on line that would help the city pave streets, pay police and firemen and reduce the tax rate for homeowners.  

Giving up nothing to gain a lot should be an easy choice when our city council members convene behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss economic incentives for ZeoGas. We encourage them to make the decision that will send a message to business and industry that is looking for a place to locate or expand: Port Arthur is open for business and will welcome companies that want to provide jobs and economic activity for the people of Southeast Texas.