Men's Breakfast Report, September 2009
The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, September 12 with Sandra Shaw, President and CEO of the Brazosport Chamber of Commerce. Sandra began working for the Chamber several years ago and has worked her way up to the position of President and CEO. Sandra reports to a board of directors, of which John Smith III is chairman.
The Chamber’s purpose is to support the interests of local businesses and economic development of the area. The chamber covers the cities of Freeport, Clute, Lake Jackson, Richwood, Oyster Creek, Jones Creek, Surfside and Quintana. The Chamber also cooperates with chambers in the rest of the county on projects involving the whole county such as Brazoria County Day in Austin where the world’s largest shrimp cocktail is served to legislators and state officials.
One of the functions of the chamber of commerce is to lobby the state legislature for bills favorable to business. A recent success was a bill exempting chamber of commerce buildings from real estate taxes. The chamber is also concerned with other taxes and regulations affecting businesses.
There was a discussion of the decline of Brazosport. The major petrochemical industries such as Dow are cutting back. The Port is expanding but does not take up the slack in terms of total jobs or quality of jobs. The loss of Intermedics was a major blow both in terms of total employment and in terms of quality of jobs. Enrollment in Brazosport ISD is declining. The number of National Merit Scholars has decreased to about two per year from five per year 15 years ago, which reflects the loss of research jobs at Dow and Intermedics. Previously the primary commuting between Brazosport on Houston was people coming from Houston to work in Brazosport. Now the primary traffic is people commuting from Brazosport to work in Houston.
The Chamber, along with economic development councils, works to bring businesses into the area. The most obvious successes are retail stores. Unfortunately, these are consumers of foreign exchange rather than producers of foreign exchange. The prosperity of the area depends on being able to produce foreign exchange. Sandra said that the Chamber, along with other chambers, is working on bringing in producing businesses. She said that a problem is that major industries interested in locating in the area are very demanding as to tax breaks and subsidies. She said that Texas does mot provide as much subsidy as many other states. She said that a business that could employ up to 6000 workers is interested in a site on Chocolate Bayou. However, Brazosport is competing with a site in Georgia which may offer higher subsidies.
Another problem Sandra mentioned is the Cap and Trade Legislation. The way it is now structured it may drive manufacturing offshore to countries without carbon taxes. In order to keep manufacturing and chemical industries here it is necessary to have carbon taxes on embedded carbon in imports.
A suggested solution to the loss of innovation and industry development in the area was to use the large number of retired scientists in the area as a think tank to start new businesses and technologies. This could be done in cooperation with the Chamber, professional societies and Brazosport College. A starting point would be to have these people look at requests for Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) proposals from the federal government. These provide an indication of where potential markets may be and where innovation may make a contribution to society.
As usual the men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast. The next meeting will be Saturday, October 10.