• 68°

Young leaders: Connecting people to success

By Ken Stickney

ken.stickney@panews.com

Fred Vernon said formation of the Young Emerging Leaders Program was an attempt — successful, thus far — to link Greater Port Arthur’s young people who hold leadership potential to people and resources that can help them meet goals.

Vernon and Paige Snyder, membership director and events coordinator for the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, spoke with the Port Arthur Rotary Club on Thursday, touting the fledgling effort to develop civic, professional and political development among people 21-40.

“We have a promise — if a young person joins, they will come out of the Young Emerging Leaders more promising than when they went in,” said Vernon.

Vernon himself has emerged as a local entrepreneur of note, founding and developing a trucking outfit in college that delivers locally for Fedex and does business in 48 states over the road.

He recounted chapters in his own success story, starting with the day a decade ago when he returned home to find a notice of foreclosure on his parents’ front door. That, he said, was a moment when he felt the need to exercise his passions for his family, for other people and for his community, which was suffering during that economic downturn.

Since then, he’s enjoyed a bumpy but meteoric rise, earning certificates and degrees — including two master’s — while working as a welder, prison guard, truck driver and executive for PricewaterhouseCoopers while establishing and growing his trucking business.

He and his company, KLV Ventures, suffered significant setbacks, he said, that included three costly truck accidents within 90 days, missed contracts and more. But he also said he learned that the best projections don’t always pan out and that “We’re not allowed to sit and sulk.”

“I didn’t give up,” he said, instead learning from his setbacks, some self-induced, and reconnecting with his faith and with his Port Arthur connections. His company has more than 40 employees and is on track for success.

“God didn’t want to end me,” he said. “He just wanted to get my attention.”

Snyder said other chamber programs that have developed recently include the Hispanic Business Council and the Contractor’s Business Development Group.

The chamber, she said, has launched plans for Golden Triangle Days on Feb. 11-12, when Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange chamber will travel to Austin to make the case before state lawmakers for needs in this region.