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Tax abatements could determine if jobs and plant come to Port Arthur
PORT ARTHUR - by Lauren Huet
It's a decision that will go a long way in determining whether a company opens a 1.2 billion dollar plant in Port Arthur that will create thousands of construction jobs. The company ZeoGas will take natural gas, convert it to methanol, and then to gasoline. Whether or not the plant is built in Port Arthur could depend on a tax abatement from the city.
Robert Fore owns Computer Shak in Port Arthur. He has three locations in Southeast Texas, including the Port Arthur store.
"This is the only store that's a little bit depressed," said Fore, "and at one time this shopping center was full of businesses, and you can look at the vacancies."
Fore says he's seen a decrease in business in Port Arthur and has seen many businesses move away. He says the space next to his store has been vacant for about two years.
"We need the city council, the economic development council to pursue businesses to move to Port Arthur and help the people that are unemployed," said Fore.
Port Arthur is dotted with refineries and petrochemical plants. The CEO of ZeoGas says he would prefer to build the new plant in Port Arthur, but the company needs economic incenctives. He says Jefferson County approved 100 percent tax abatements for ten years for ZeoGas, and the company is asking the city to formally approve the county's offer.
Last week, Port Arthur City Council decided not to give the company a 100 percent tax abatement. The city manager, John Comeaux, says the council doesn't think it's a good approach to economic development. And, it would mean the city wouldn't receive property taxes for ten years.
However, Comeaux says the city is willing to offer an abatement of about 75 percent. Also, the council submitted a proposal to ZeoGas offering a greater abatement if ZeoGas hires a certain amount of Port Arthur residents and uses Port Arthur businesses.
The CEO of ZeoGas, Timothy Belton, says a 100 percent tax abatement is the market standard, not extreme or unusual. He says the project will have a 2.2 billion dollar economic impact in the region, and he's surprised the council hasn't taken action on the abatements.
Belton says, in order to build in Port Arthur, the company needs a baseline of 100 percent abatements. He says Corpus Christi and a city in Louisiana have offered the company 100 percent abatements to build there. Although Port Arthur wouldn't receive property taxes for ten years with the abatements, Belton says the city would still receive millions of dollars in sales tax revenue and other benefits.
Council met in a closed executive session Tuesday, but no decision was made. Fore thinks the council should offer the incentive.
"Give them 100 percent abatement get them in here and get some people to work," said Fore.
The plant would create 3,000 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs.
"Every business will benefit, from what they purchase, where they live, everything they buy," said Fore.
An opportunity Fore is afraid the city will lose if it doesn't act quickly.