An economy of one

Published 8:28 am Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Over the past couple weeks, conversations of high unemployment rates, new business and a stagnant local economy have been held by many throughout our communities. The conversation focus on growth needs to be at the forefront of all our minds. But some remain comfortable in the idea that our economic base, driven by the oil industry, will continue to do so well into the future.

This may be the case, and it may not be. We never know what the future holds. One thing is for certain, if we allow our economy to be controlled by one industry with a large part of its decision-making controls coming from other countries, we could wake up one day and be unimportant.

This is not completely out of the question. Detroit, Mich., for example, was a city with “An economy of one.” The automobile industry was the base of its economy since the early 1900s when Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Everyone drives cars, however, the auto industry has seen declining sales over the years. 2015 saw 7.7 million vehicles purchased which was down from 2000 at 8.7 million and down from 11 million during the mid ’80s. Detroit, a once booming economy, filed for bankruptcy in 2013 due to the city’s automobile industry suffering from global competition and remaining production being forced to move.

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With the continual ups and downs of the oil industry, threats of layoffs and workforce reductions at refineries, we can see that decision makers are continually making changes to ensure bottom line profits are met. And during their contemplation of which move will be the best for their company, they are not thinking about you and me. They are not having conversations about how these changes will affect the local economy.

It is for this reason we must have local leadership that is focused on growing an alternate economic base if we want the Greater Port Arthur area to be a thriving community 20 years from now. We need leaders with a vision that can unite a community. If all stays the same, or maybe even gets better, with the oil industry, Fantastic! That’s just icing on the cake. But the mindset of turning business away needs to become a part of our past, or our chances of becoming a “Little Detroit” can become greater and greater as each year rolls through without business growth.