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Commerce Dept. invests $4.7 million in Port Arthur ‘incubator’

Staff report

The former Port Arthur News’s downtown building may hum again, though not with the rolling of presses.

The U.S. Department of Commerce on Friday announced that it would award $4.7 million to the Port Arthur Economic Development Corp. in order purchase the building on Fourth Street, near City Hall, and establish a new Community and Business Development Center.

The Commerce Department said the project would “help new startup companies and small businesses expand operations.”

“According to grantee estimates,” the news announcement said, “the project is expected to create 300 new jobs and generate $12 million in private investment.”

Floyd Batiste, EDC executive director, said last spring that if the city could secure the grant, the building could be converted into a Small Business Development Center where second-year students from nearby Lamar State College Port Arthur could serve as interns. He has also suggested a program for training chefs, pehaps in partnership from the college.

Batiste said last spring that the city could also use a portion of the building, perhaps for a command center during dangerous storms.

“More people downtown can bring in more private investment,” he said.

Batiste has told the Port Arthur City Council before that the EDC had secured “tentative approval” for the grant money; Friday’s announcement was final confirmation.