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Greater PA Chamber moves to fully virtual banquet; community support remains vital, according to leadership

The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce will host a fully virtual annual banquet this year.

The move came due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, chamber president/CEO Pat Avery said.

The Chamber originally planed to have half the attendees login virtually while the other half attended the 121st Annual Banquet in person. Avery said the chamber decided to go fully virtual to keep people safe and cut expenses.

“It has been very challenging to learn these new things,” Avery said. “It is good for the mind to grow and develop. I have been in such a learning curve about the whole thing. We are going to tape it all and we are in the process of scheduling everyone for their part in the banquet.”

Avery said the usual dinner is the chamber’s largest expense for the banquet each year.

The banquet is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 28.

“People can watch it while they are working,” Avery said. “Since there is no meal, we are hoping that we will get more participation from our community. We are doing pretty well. We are lucky to have a huge industry and contractor base in Port Arthur. They are supporting their chamber, whether they go or not, or get to see it or not. That is going to sustain us through these difficult times of not being able to raise money for our chamber events.”

The chamber is a non-profit organization that has to raise its own money to help local industry and small businesses.

“We want to make it as exciting as we can be, while making it efficient with everyone’s time as well,” Avery said. “We are honoring our petro-chemical sites that are part of our chamber as well.”

Avery said the chamber is instrumental in helping industry and small business reach their goals. The chamber recently completed a legislative agenda for elected officials as the 87th legislative session begins.

“A lot of money and time went into our industries, our ports, our educational system and our hospitals to learn all of the things that are important for them to operate in our community,” Avery said. “We spent six weeks making sure we understood all of these issues. We did a lot of lobbying for those things in our community.

“Just to give an example, with our LNG plants flourishing in Sabine Pass, we only have one egress and ingress for Sabine. That is a problem, because that has to be shared with industry, school buses and the people that live there. We really are going to be pushing in that area this year.”

Those who buy a ticket to attend the virtual banquet will also get more out of the experience than simply saying they donated to the chamber.

The chamber is giving out the Arthur E. Stilwell award to Tom Neal, who is the director of the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Those who attend will also hear presentations from guest speakers Margaret Spellings, who is the president and CEO of Texas 2036, and Ron Arceneaux, who is the 2021 chairperson for the chamber.

“We all face a lot with the COVID-19 pandemic and the work and labor concerns we all have,” Arceneaux said. “Our chamber has a game plan that will bring a valued service to the community that will be announced very soon, without getting too far ahead. I’m sure that is one of the big things on everyone’s minds.

“We want to grow our membership, which is on our board’s minds. We want to be able to create outreach to our memberships and get feedback from them. I’m sure we will also cover unemployment and our economy. I think infrastructure will also be a big part of our presentation.”

Those interested in registering for the online banquet can do so by visiting portarthurtexas.com and clicking the “events” tab. Call 409-963-1107 for more information.