BEYOND THE STORM — Light in the tunnel: Harvey hasn’t stopped new businesses opening
Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey couldn’t stop economic development in the city of Port Arthur as new businesses are opening up around town. Here’s a few recently revealed at Port Arthur City Hall:
The Texas Workforce Commission office will be moving from Jefferson City Shopping Center to a new location on FM 365 between the Mid-County HEB and Jack in the Box. It will open at the end of the summer, according to Mary Hammon, TWC deputy director.
She said their lease is ending at the shopping center and they would like to move into a smaller building.
“It will be a good location for the population. It will be accessible,” Hammon said. “We’ve been here (at Jefferson City) since 1999.
“We’re a local, non-profit empowered board. We handle multiple programs, but we’re not the unemployment office.”
Hammons said the TWC will focus on the same thing they’re currently doing — helping employers find employees, promoting adult literacy, GED, citizenship classes, vocational/rehabilitative training, childcare and finding training for eligible people in addition to youth training.
“We’ll be more efficient in the new building. We’ve needed a smaller building the past couple of years. The procurement of space is the most attractive thing. It will be less expensive with a smaller space. We’re excited,” she said.
The foundation is being laid now. The new building will be 12,000 square feet vs. the current 20,000 square feet. There will be several large rooms for workshops or training or events like a job fair.
A new driveway will connect the building with the shopping center next door for good access.
Hammon said because it’s an undeveloped property, some things had to be done for infrastructure. They are also leasing the property.
“The city has cooperated with us,” she said. “Their hands are full and we appreciate it. Hopefully we’ll be a wonderful asset,” she said.
This new shopping center will be nestled between the Walgreen’s at Gulfway Drive and Jefferson Drive and AutoZone.
Developer George Kahlaf said he got tired of waiting on HEB Grocery to develop the property for the past two years, so he took matters into his own hands.
He anticipates filling up the 12,000-square-foot shopping center and tenants will start paying rent. He’s assuming that a large, maybe national company will become interested in the center and move in. Subway and T-Mobile have already called.
He also said the shopping center will serve as an anchor site for development in that area — perhaps a grocery store. He owns another shopping center on Gulfway Drive that houses a Family Dollar Store and an H&R Block.
“I will build it anyway. They will come,” he said. “It will be a nice center for Port Arthur. I’ll do it myself. Construction will start in May or June with the city permits. It’ll be up in 90 days.”
Kahlaf said there will be access from Gulfway and Jefferson for the center.
“We’ll have good stores there,” he said. “I’m a good landlord. I’m very reasonable. It’s a good corner there. I’m asking businesspeople to come and take a look.”
Kahlaf added that doing business with the city of Port Arthur has been fine and he’s never had a problem in dealing with the city for 14 years.
USA RV will build an RV resort at the intersection of Highway 73 and West Port Arthur Road.
It will feature a clubhouse with a porch, swimming pool, game room, office area, media room, washateria, showers and more, planner Charles Shajari said.
The resort will be built on nine of their 11 acres. There will be 137 spaces, 25 feet by 65 feet, at 45-degree angles.
Shajari said there will be good access to 73 and West Port Arthur Road. He had been working on the project for nearly a year. He made presentations to the Port Arthur City Council and the Planning & Zoning committee. It will cost $3 million to build.
“It will help the economy a lot,” he said. “Particularly with the expansion of local refineries and LNG, workers will need a place even more.”
Shajari said they have a state-of-the-art, 240-space RV resort in Beaumont.
Crews are grading the ground now and they’re waiting on Entergy to install power lines in a couple of weeks. Shajari wants the resort to open in late summer or early fall, depending on the weather.
“We’re excited about this,” he said. “There’s also two parcels of land there for building restaurants.”
Some Port Arthur residents resisted the project because they thought it would be another RV park. However, Shajari said, this resort will be “first class.”
“Port Arthur has a bad image with the tires and trash here. There’s no enforcement,” Shajari said. “It’s been a bumpy ride and there’s been surprise after surprise. The city did their best.
He said the planning department was most helpful.
“They were exceptional. Pipelines there were an issue and we had to do replats. It slowed the process.”
This story appeared in Volume 3 of The Port Arthur News Profile, April 22, 2018