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‘Versatile’ EDC seeks a robust downtown

Port Arthur Economic Development Corp. investments are helping transform downtown, a representative told the Port Arthur Rotary Club on Thursday.

Krystle Muller, an economic development specialist, said downtown had gotten stagnant when, a decade ago, the EDC made its initial efforts to plan for and bring that deserted part of the city back to life.

Muller, who has worked for EDC for 11 years, said EDC’s efforts have included finding partners to encourage residential construction and business development in an effort to bring downtown “back to life.”

Among current projects, she said, are:

  • Development of townhome construction — 118 units — on vacant land that lies between Procter and Fourth streets.
  • New home construction — 30 single-family homes now, perhaps 30 later — on land between Rev. Dr. Ransom Howard St. to Fifth Street and Mobile Avenue to Stilwell Avenue. Mandates include that the owners be working families with good credit.
  • Development of the old Port Arthur News building on Fourth Street into a facility that would house a culinary arts program for Lamar State College Port Arthur and a city command center dangerous storms. The building would also serve as a business incubator for entrepreneurs who need office space.
  • Reviving the 501 Building that now houses the EDC, Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce and other tenants. The building is fully occupied, Muller said.

Muller said the EDC has also developed a 300-acre business park near Port Arthur Road and 365 — it has 17 tenants — and has added another 90 acres for development nearby.

The promise of land, as well as other incentives, is helping lure investors into the city, she said.

A second tack for attracting new investors is EDC’s partnered efforts in workforce training. The EDC has worked with Lamar State College to offer commercial truck driver courses and is developing a site on campus for other job readiness skills training.

In addition, EDC has offered both internships for high school graduates who gained workforce skills in local schools and has funded scholarships for students at Lamar State College.

“We’ll give you an incentive,” she said EDC is telling prospective investors. “We’ve got the workforce to help you.”

Economic development, she said, has gotten more multi-faceted, including encouraging job skills, because prospective companies demand it.

“We keep moving forward,” she said. “We’re very versatile.”

 

See also: No place like home: Port Arthur, EDC, Legacy fashion a neighborhood