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Port Arthur considers redefining its economic development corporation, expanding its scope

Since its inception in 1996, Port Arthur’s economic development corporation has been geared toward industrial development projects.

And in a city whose foundation was built on the petrochemical industry this choice has been fruitful for decades.

Now, there is discussion brought forth by the Rev. Donald Frank Sr. asking about the change in designation from Type A to Type B EDC, saying it would allow the board to “promote and develop new and expanded business ventures that create or retain primary jobs,” according to the city council agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

The Texas Comptroller’s website explains:

  • Type A EDCs are typically created to fund industrial development projects such as business infrastructure, manufacturing and research and development. Type A EDCs can also fund military base realignment, job training classes and public transportation.
  • Type B EDCs can fund all projects eligible for Type A, as well as parks, museums, sports facilities and affordable housing. However, Type B EDCs are subject to more administrative restrictions than Type A.

Frank says with a new administration in office at the Capitol now is the time for change with economic development.

One issue that goes along with his way of thinking is the upcoming special election in the city asking voters to use a certain amount of EDC funds for enhancements at Adams Park, Rose Hill Park and the Recreation and Senior Citizens Center.

If the PAEDC were a Type B organization the issue would not have to be placed on a ballot.

Currently three council members — Charlotte Moses, Kenneth Marks and Ingrid Holmes — have spent time on the PAEDC board and have knowledge of how the organization works. All three believe there needs to be discussion and some research on the issue.

Marks said he’s in favor of the discussion and taking time to present the findings to the community.

“So we can determine how we need to do this, make sure it is done in such a way to benefit the community and make sure our citizens know what we are doing and have the EDC executive director and staffing and city council all on the same page,” Marks said.

Ultimately, the decision would up to the voters.

Locally, the three Mid-County cities all have Type B EDC’s. Nederland’s and Groves’ were formed in 1996 and Port Neches’ was formed in 2000.

Not an overnight change

George Davis, deputy director of the PAEDC, said he agrees with Charlotte Moses, Kenneth Marks and Ingrid Holmes in that it would be best to have a workshop to provide information and facts to citizens before the issue goes to voters.

But there’s more to the topic than the vote. The PAEDC is made up of members appointed by the city council. If there is a change to Type B, there would have to be a new EDC board of directors and current city council members would be allowed to sit on this type of EDC board.

Mayor Thurman Bartie, who is recovering from COVID-19, was in attendance at this week’s Zoom city council meeting and said he would like to move forward and allow the city attorney, along with the PAEDC’s attorney and city manager, to research the issue so they are apprised of what needs to be done.