Port Arthur Chamber chair Art Thomas calls for greater small business support

Published 12:18 am Friday, January 26, 2024

Art Thomas has traveled and worked in many locations through his 10 years of service with the U.S. Navy and 23 years of employment with Texas Gas Service, but when he had the attention of many of Port Arthur’s most influential community members, his message was decidedly more local.

“It’s vital to recognize the challenges faced by small businesses in the Greater Port Arthur area and take action to support their growth and sustainability,” Thomas said.

“Small businesses are the lifeline of the community. Lets work together and create an environment where small businesses can thrive, create jobs and continue to contribute to the economic and social fabric of Greater Port Arthur.”

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Thomas delivered that message this week during his address as incoming chairman at the 124th Annual Banquet of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce.

While touting small businesses’ jobs, services and products that enrich everyday lives, he made sure to outline a series of problems that demand local attention.

According to Thomas, small businesses in the region lack access to finances, recruiting tools for talent, natural disaster response, access to technology and marketing tools for sustainability.

He called on Chamber members to work with officials of the City of Port Arthur, Lamar State College Port Arthur and Small Business Development Center to reach out to small business owners to make sure these resources are available and show them the community is here to support them.

Randy Sonnier served as board chairman for the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce in 2023. (Stephen Hemelt/The News)

Parting remarks

Prior to Thomas’ speech, outgoing Chamber Board Chairman Randy Sonnier talked about the successes achieved in 2023.

“It has been an honor to serve as the 109th chairman of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “The list of previous chairmen and chairwomen is quite impressive, as it includes many leaders, visionaries and prestigious members of our community that were instrumental in the development and growth of Port Arthur.”

He noted that three Port Arthur refineries process an average of 1.25 million barrels a day of crude oil. Add in Exxon Mobil, and Jefferson County comes in around 1.7 million barrels per day.

“Jefferson County represents .0007 of the U.S. population. Texas refining capacity is responsible for 1/3 of all U.S. production, and the (Port Arthur) refineries provide 26 percent of the Texas refining capacity. So, we are a big deal.”

He touted recent visits from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to the Port of Port Arthur and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to Lamar State as examples of the community’s strong standing nationally.

Sonnier said Chamber participation is robust with more than 700 members who contributed to 32 special events in 2023.

The annual industry show also brought in approximately 1,300 participants and 130 displays.