Leaders of local businesses speak of importance of industry show in Port Arthur

Published 12:20 am Friday, August 4, 2023

Randy Sonnier understands the importance of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Industry Show.

As this year’s chamber chairman, Sonnier has some added insight in that he also works for industry.

“It’s one of those opportunities that gives us a chance for suppliers to compete with some of the big players in town,” he said. “Motiva, CP Chem, Valero and all that. But it also gives us a chance to learn about new vendors that are always coming in.”

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He can’t say he is able to open his door and have 20 vendors waiting to visit him daily, his workday doesn’t permit that, but the atmosphere and opportunity at the industry show this week does allow this for businesses.

“We get to see some of the tools of their trade versus just talking to a person and seeing a brochure,” Sonnier said. “And let’s face it, we’re all big players in the community, the big refineries, and we need to be involved, on the chamber board.”

Tu McDaniel, senior purchasing manager with TotalEnergies Port Arthur, said she is able to get face-to-face with people with smaller companies who don’t really get the opportunity to present themselves to TotalEnergies.

READ MORE — “This is who we’re here to support.” Port Arthur Industry Show brings everything together.

Joe Tant, vice president of finance for the Chamber, said 114 businesses signed up to participate and more than 800 people had come through the doors before 3:30 p.m. — the show opened at 2 p.m.

104 of these businesses are Chamber members.

“It’s important to make sure that our entire community knows that industry and small business, medium size, can come together and be able to network,” Tant said. “You have companies like Total come in and go, ‘hey, here’s how you can do business with us.’”

Sonnier said there is a change of pace and philosophy from Chamber President Pat Avery in that Avery was once Sonnier’s boss. But now, with Sonnier as president of the Chamber, he’s her boss, he said with a laugh.

“That’s a running joke but it’s good to have that background in the oil and gas. We’re an oil and gas town,” Sonnier said. “I’m not a chamber president in a big touristy area, something like Florida or the lakes area. It’s good to have somebody like that as chamber president, and Joe (Tant) has been involved in this area so long, knowing what the needs of oil and gas are.”

The area, Sonnier said, is experiencing a rebirth of Spindletop.

Looking around the area there are $45 billion in projects within a 30-mile radius of Port Arthur.

Elton Hollis III, owner of Hol-Tech Resources LLC, general manager of RT Technical Solutions LLC. and Chamber member, provided a contractor’s perceptive to the discussion.

He said industry shows such as the one on Wednesday weren’t always the norm.

“What’s nice is that it hasn’t always been this way in any area, Houston area, here or there. Not only do the plants and refineries show up to these events, it’s ‘hey, let me bring the real people you deal with,’” Hollis said.

Total, he said, is a perfect example because of whom they brought to the event, purchasers.

The industry show has grown stronger through the years and growing, even after the pandemic.

“It shows the chamber is working for their membership,” Sonnier said.