Area faces employment boom, housing shortage
Southeast Texas will need 12,100 workers in the next few years as plants expand and other construction gets under way, Mark Viator of the Workforce Alliance said last week.
Viator spoke before members of the Orange County Commissioners Court and city councils about the economic boom in the region. The meeting was sponsored by the Orange County Economic Development Corporation under Bobby Fillyaw, and was held in the Orange City Council Chambers.
Area chemical plants and oil refineries have more than $10.3 billion in expansions planned, he told the group. Also, construction is progressing on new LNG (liquefied natural gas) plants.
Now, the area needs to provide skilled workers and housing for the influx of workers moving to the area for jobs.
"Some people think these jobs are going away. That’s not true," Viator said. Many of the jobs will be permanent, he said.
More jobs will also be created in the business and service sectors as the construction and industrial jobs increase, he said.
One of the problems Southeast Texas is facing because of the boom is a housing shortage for the workers moving to the area, Viator said.
Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said Monday housing "is nothing the county can do. It’s up to private enterprise." Still, he admits that providing housing for workers moving here is a problem. More apartments and housing need to be developed, he said.
Besides the industrial construction jobs, school building projects will also be contributing to a building boom, Viator said. Voters in the West Orange-Cove school district earlier this month approved a $48 million bond issue for construction and renovations. Also, the Beaumont, Port Arthur and Port Neches-Groves school districts have major construction plans after bond elections, bringing a total of some $1 billion in school projects to the area.
Southeast Texas needs more job training to supply local workers to projects, Viator said. And besides the construction and building projects, local industries will need permanent workers to replace the employees of the Baby Boom generation as they retire, he said.
A major problem the region faces is a drug problem with potential workers, Viator said. The area has a drug testing failure rate of 45-to-55 percent as workers take screening tests for jobs, he said.
Also, new Homeland Security rules prohibit anyone with a felony conviction working at a plant for at least seven years after the conviction. He said drug-related convictions will eliminate a number of people who could work.
The Workforce Alliance is working with the Region 5 Education Center, along with school districts and colleges to provide job training for residents, he said.
Viator said the influx of workers will create traffic problems in the area that will need to be addressed.
The report of the Workforce Alliance, including statistics, is available at the Entergy website, entergy-texas.com.