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Mayor Thurman Bartie: Hire people who live in Port Arthur

Thurman “Bill” Bartie cut to the chase when talking to a room full of local leaders about workforce hiring: “Don’t just hire people from the region and say that is OK. I want you to consider hiring some citizens who actually live in Port Arthur.”

Bartie, Port Arthur’s recently elected mayor, was the featured speaker at Tuesday’s Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce City and Regional Breakfast Update.

Bartie sought to capture the room’s attention by beginning his address with song.

He punctuated his talk with a plea to those hiring — specifically large-scale employers located in Port Arthur — to work with the city and others to hire local applicants.

“There is that old rumor that no one in Port Arthur can pass a drug test, and you believe all that so you won’t have to hire people from Port Arthur,” Bartie said, lightly chastising would-be employers. “I don’t know what you are looking for.”

Bartie was far from negative, quickly noting there is a training problem with the local workforce. He asked industry leaders to “vow to work with us in this great start” of training future generations.

He acknowledged Port Arthur must do a better job of preparing students and embrace vocational training.

“This will allow Port Arthur to have the fresh start that I believe it deserves,” Bartie said. “It will allow Port Arthur to have a rejuvenation that we so strongly desire.”

In remarks earlier during the morning’s presentation, Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation CEO Floyd Batiste also addressed the issue of workforce development.

“Because of the amount of jobs we have here and the skillset, or some would say lack of a skillset, we need to find out what those deficiencies are and bring them to a level where we can put people to work,” Batiste said.

“We are currently working with the Port Arthur Independent School District and Lamar State College Port Arthur to establish an employee work skills training program. We are hoping in the next five or six years you will see 50 or 60 kids out here building robots.”

Batiste said it is the EDC’s intent to develop a work ready community and “hopefully in the next year or so you will see a better community and better workforce.”

Dr. Mark Porterie, superintendent for Port Arthur Independent School District, said local schools are ready for the challenge, noting this academic year will see the graduation of 12th graders from Woodrow Wilson Early College High School with high school diplomas and associate degrees from Lamar State College Port Arthur.

Porterie said the petro-chemical industry and others are asking the school district to provide workforce ready students.

“That is what we are trying to do — make sure they are ready to get those jobs,” Porterie said. “We want our students in this community to be able to take on those jobs.”