STEPHEN HEMELT — Port Arthur mayor, educators see bright future with industry partners

Published 12:06 am Saturday, May 13, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie notes you’ll see “about 1,000 cranes” and “thousands of people working” if you drive out to Sabine Pass.

He said the action in plain view demonstrates that international companies are serious about the local commitments to the investments “in our community.”

“In years to come, generations that will be here after we are gone will benefit,” Bartie said. “I know this because of what I am seeing right now. What’s on the other side will be greater. It’s just piles of dirt right now. Once all of those tanks go up, we’ll be supplying the world with LNG from Port Arthur, Texas.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Bartie and I had a chance to discuss the industry expansions in Sabine Pass during “Constructive Conversations — a Port Arthur LNG Information Open House” hosted last month at the Sabine Pass ISD gymnasium on South Gulfway Drive.

That gathering followed a late March Sempra announcement that its 70 percent-owned subsidiary, Sempra Infrastructure Partners, reached a positive final investment decision for the development, construction and operation of the Port Arthur LNG Phase 1 project.

That project promises many construction and permanent jobs with the hope for numerous future expansions (phases).

Opportunities like that and others in the LNG and petro-chemical fields have the mayor thinking about future generations.

“I want to make sure students and citizens from the Port Arthur and Sabine Pass independent school districts, Tekoa and Bob Hope have programs that would prepare them to be attractive for employment in this industry,” Bartie said.

“I believe if we are going to be proactive in educating our students, we will prepare our students for all of the permanent jobs that we have out here. Because all I can see with this is growth. They put this here, and we have a lot of land out here.”

Sempra Infrastructure External Affairs Director Kelly Prasser, left, presents a $50,000 donation check to Sabine Pass ISD superintendent Kristi Heid. (Stephen Hemelt/The News)

At the very same event, Kristi Heid was already acting on that thought. In fact, the Sabine Pass ISD superintendent was celebrating.

Sempra Infrastructure President of LNG & Net Zero Solutions Martin Hupka used the gathering to present Heid with $50,000 in support of the Sabine Pass ISD’s new School Career & Technology Center. The funds help underwrite the district’s Z-Space Technology, which will deliver immersive and interactive learning.

Heid called the funding supercharge “quite awesome.”

“We have been wanting to get this Z-Space material and program going for some time,” Heid told me. “It’s a program that will reach all the way down into elementary, middle school and the high school. We are really excited about it.”

She said the district would get started immediately.

“We are fixing to break ground in a couple of months on a new career and technology center,” Heid said. “We want to get that (Z-Space) program in and initially going in the school district before that is real. (The funding) is going to help a lot.”

Construction of the career and technology center is scheduled for completion in March of 2025.

Sabine Pass ISD has a new transportation center nearing completion on the backside of the football field that will house all of its school buses. Then, the current bus barn will get torn down to help make room for the career and technology center.

“Sempra has been committed to Sabine Pass for quite some time, even before their (final investment decision),” Heid said. “A lot of our CTE equipment is supported by the Sempra initiative. Kids are literally 3D printing shoes, a prosthetic for a young lady who needed an arm. Every bit of that Sempra has been a part of. They have been supporting our STEM program for a while.”

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes, The Port Arthur News and Greater Port Arthur The Magazine. He can be reached at or 409-721-2445.