Chamber chair: Build on education

Published 10:07 am Thursday, January 24, 2019

By Ken Stickney

Elizabeth Cravens told a packed Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce banquet Wednesday that her vision for 2019 is to press ahead with the organization’s efforts at championing education, elevating the skills of the local workforce and growing existing chamber initiatives, such as the Hispanic Business Council.

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Cravens, founder and owner of Mid-America Contractors, also assumed the chamber chairperson’s role at the banquet, replacing outgoing chairman Jeff Hayes.

“Education will always be the foundation we can build upon,” she said, citing the chamber’s participation in the Port Arthur Education Foundation, through which some $1.5 million has passed to the Port Arthur Independent School District and Lamar State College Port Arthur since Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey.

She also recounted that the chamber had hosted training for students seeking jobs in the robust local economy, where construction jobs abound and where elevated workforce skills, such as those taught at Lamar Port Arthur, are positioning graduates for career success in industry.

That, she said, is where the chamber should focus this year: relationships, education and training.

“We are Port Arthur,” Cravens said. “Its success is our success.”

In introducing Cravens, Judith Smith, director of health services for Port Arthur’s public health department, listed attributes that she said would make Cravens’ unfolding leadership tenure successful, calling her “committed,” “dedicated,” “goal oriented” and a woman who contributes to business and community based on “good ethical practices.”

Cravens followed to the podium Jeff Hayes, chairman for the past 12 months. Hayes provided a litany of chamber successes, including:

  • Funding was secured for key improvements on the Sabine Neches Waterway.
  • The Hispanic Business Council continued to develop, and had a successful fund-raiser with a spring golf tournament.
  • The Young Leaders Group developed and grew in numbers.
  • The chamber surpassed its budget projections, despite a year when some businesses struggled in the aftermath of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey.
  • The chamber was awarded a top-level “5-star” designation, which only 2 percent of the nation’s local chambers achieve.
  • A contractors networking group grew, enabling local businesses to become aware of business opportunities.