FLOYD BATISTE — Changing our community culture is key to city progress

Published 12:12 am Thursday, August 13, 2020

It’s great to see the improvement being made with our city infrastructure, buildings and everything around us, but the main thing is building one’s self-esteem within us. That’s the mindset that we as a community need to changes in order to start thinking differently.

Because what’s the use of having all improved infrastructure, the nice buildings and within us we haven’t changed our culture?

Our community culture change must begin with extensive community engagement, identifying our core community values and the creation of a community owned vision and blueprint.

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I believe we can accomplish this change in the very near future through extensive engagement across all Port Arthur neighborhoods with a clear concept emerging. That is, spiritual growth will come about if we aligned our change to economic opportunity that provides the fundamental basis for a total social community transformation.

The whole of our community culture change will open the door to new leadership structure, where our government will meet community priorities and where infrastructure and services are delivered by the community. The community can take direct responsibility when every sector of the community is engaged, valued and has a voice.

Dynamic exchange comes about when all people begin helping each other and businesses, government and indigenous leaders coming together to share their skills and knowledge to create real change.

Our vision should be to engage like-minded citizens who seek to advance our community’s social responsibility agendas. To work collaboratively with our community, government and strategic partners who share a mutual goal to leverage the wisdom of indigenous cultures and meld our collective philosophies in lasting reconciliation.

I think our local government has set the stage for seeking greater collaboration with all members of our community to establish strategic partners and indigenous agendas. Our local government has recognized the significance of our process in its indigenous economic policy.

We should be reaching out to engage in the philosophy of total community ownership and self-determination to improve our social and economic community outcomes.

The time is right to engage in this values-based process that builds a strong mutual understanding between community, government and our strategic partners.

For some time, our community has long been considered one of Southeast Texas’ most disadvantaged communities, but in just the last few years, it has had a big turnaround, significantly increasing in jobs and community infrastructure.

Despite being the home of several of the larger petrochemical facilities, our community still has the lowest per capita and highest unemployment rate in the region. Why?

Beginning in about 2013, the City Council through the work of its Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors approved a “First Source of Referral Program” and established opportunities for any Port Arthur underemployed or unemployed residents to obtain the needed training to become employed.

Looking back at our Council and EDC Board’s vision to helping the development of skills of our residents, it was the one of its most valuable local legislative actions taken to improving the quality of life for all people in our community.

Because of their action, our community has created at least 450 new, high-paying manufacturing and industrial jobs for Port Arthur residents, have eight young people connected into training with a local robotic manufacturing company, funded training for 75 Port Arthur residents who have obtained their CDL license, funded welding training for more than 50 residents, awarded 10 residents with two-year paid college scholarships for in-demand occupations, funded training for CNA license and more.

Yes, we are building a true people infrastructure for our community.

Let’s not forget the many recent changes being made in our community, that is, the construction of more than 60 news single family homes, the Motiva Campus, the planned grand opening of the City’s new Community Development Center, the upcoming groundbreaking and construction of a 118-unit Apartment / Townhomes for working people in our downtown, the rehabilitation of the Old Port Arthur News Building that will house Lamar State College Port Arthur Culinary and Hospitality Training Center, the Emergency Command Center, Co-Working Space and a launch pad for local small businesses, work at home businesses and growing businesses all in our once blighted downtown area.

And in partnership with Lamar State College Port Arthur, coming is the development of a state-of-the-art industrial training center that will provide for free training opportunities for 100 Port Arthur residents.

We have witnessed a powerful community transformation in the past few years.

I still believe the biggest change, will come, when we as a community begin to see a community culture change in the people themselves.

Floyd Batiste is CEO of the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation. He can be reached at fbatiste@paedc.org.