By Bobby Fillyaw

Orange County’s economy has suffered over the past couple of years due to the world-wide falling stock markets, natural disasters, high energy costs, the gulf moratorium and difficulty financing new projects. After many years of minimal population growth and a stationary economy, the rebirth of local shipyards and new hires by several of our fortune 500 companies, Orange County’s economy is slowly seeing signs of growth. A great deal of new construction has taken place and the development of expanded deep-water shipping capabilities and on-going plans to re-vamp the I-10 corridor area will safeguard our continued growth and visibility.

The State of Texas has done a great deal in recent years to establish policies that attract business to the State. Orange County has also made efforts to capitalize on the statewide incentives in order to make our region a more desirable place for businesses to relocate and/or expand and for an increasing number of people to call home.

Orange County serves as the gateway to Texas along I-10 and is a major transportation hub which helps us attract a great deal of business specifically in the petrochemical industry. Continuing development projects are the key to our success and continued growth in the county.

Many factors contribute to a business’s decision to expand or relocate including costs, ease of access, local taxes, the practicality and attractiveness for current and future employees; transportation infrastructure plays a significant role in that decision as well.

One of the major components to maintaining Orange County’s competitiveness in attracting new industry is affordable and reliable electricity. I am glad to see that in an effort to help meet the long-term needs of our community, and plan for growth, Entergy Texas, Orange County’s local electrical utility provider, recently announced a plan to join the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO).

The news that Entergy Texas’ plans to join MISO is only going to make our southeast community stronger. It will also help regional businesses plan for the long-term and improve our region’s electric affordability and reliability. In fact, Entergy Texas projects that by joining MISO, up to $225 million in benefits for its customers will be created over a ten year period. Since energy costs and reliability have a direct impact on the bottom line of businesses, enhancing these factors will only have a positive impact on our economy’s competitiveness, and spur job growth.

MISO is one of several regional transmission organizations in the country and manages an electrical grid across twelve states. By independently coordinating the electrical flow throughout the combined transmission systems of its members, MISO is able to maximize efficiency and savings. Joining MISO will provide Southeast Texas with access to a market that includes diverse generation sources, such as nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewables; this can only build on our region’s electrical reliability.

Government and elected leaders play a large role in shaping this environment, but it is also imperative for other businesses, community leaders, and most of all, residents, to be aware of and act on the issues that can have long-term benefits for our local economy by fostering business growth and job creation.

As Orange County continues on this rallying path, it is imperative to continue to build an economic atmosphere that will attract new businesses and encourage continued development. The infrastructure is essential in this process so that we can support the long-term needs of businesses currently in the area and businesses that will relocate in the future. Entergy Texas is helping to ensure long term sustainability by developing energy solutions that will ensure that Orange County continues to be an attractive place for businesses.

About the Author: Bobby Fillyaw has been the Executive Director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation since April 2005. The Orange County Economic Development Corporation was formed in 2003 to better serve the economic development needs of Orange County. The County of Orange, the Orange County Port and Navigation District and the Cities of Bridge City, Orange, Pinehurst, Vidor and West Orange realized the strengths gained by pooling resources to attract quality jobs and investments to Orange County.