Region needs refineries, small businesses too

September 28, 2018

This week reminded Southeast Texans about the value of our massive refineries — and many small businesses as well. Both deserve our political and monetary support to keep jobs and tax revenues flowing.

At the upper level, Exxon Mobil made not just local but national news with the report that it has completed a half-billion expansion of its Beaumont refinery — and has plans for more growth in oil refining and plastics later on.

The expansion of its plastics plant is already underway, and next year Exxon Mobil could add another round of refinery expansion to its current daily capacity of 365,000 barrels. The next jump would make it among the largest in the nation, possibly rivaling the current record-holder — which just so happens to be the Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, at 600,000 barrels per day.

For now, the other two major refineries in the region, Total and Valero, are standing pat. But as domestic oil production in the U.S. continues to soar — most of it from South or West Texas — don’t be surprised if they also get bigger and better down the road. Oil exports from the United States are booming also, and a lot of that passes through area ports.

The other half of our petrochemical sector made national news this week too. The Veolia incinerator in Port Arthur will be disposing of 250,000 gallons of liquid hazardous waste from a chemical destruction plant in Colorado. That plant had been destroying 780,000 artillery shells containing 2,500 tons of a mustard agent to comply with an international treaty.

Hazardous waste disposal is the least glamorous part of the petrochemical industry, but it’s irreplaceable. Modern fuels and plastics are vital to our high-tech economy. Operations like Veolia are too as they take care of their waste products.

But while all these multi-million dollar projects were being discussed, the other end of the employment sector was hardly quiet. The Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Sabine Area Restaurant Association announced that the city’s first Restaurant Week was a nice success. Restaurants participating in the #EatBMT campaign reported sales gains of 7 percent to 18 percent over that week last month. The #EatBMT Restaurant Week on the convention bureau’s website had more than 50,000 views.

Most of this increased business was from travelers, like the thousands of people who pass through the region each day on I-10. You know that more than a few of them told their friends and neighbors about the great meal they had in Beaumont … which should entice those people to stop in next time they’re driving through.

Southeast Texas is blessed with an impressive range of industries and businesses. All of us, from elected officials to daily customers, should keep that in mind and support them every way we can.

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