Abundant Natural Gas Ignites Houston Ship Channel Industry Renaissance

Economic outlook conference examines industry plans for growth, economic prosperity, jobs

Petrochemical and maritime experts will share plans for petrochemical expansion that has the Houston Ship Channel region positioned for unprecedented growth at the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region outlook conference on September 5th. Refining and chemical industry executives and maritime experts will discuss how a dramatic natural gas revolution in the United States is driving industry growth and economic prosperity, and how other economic factors are contributing to the regional boom.

The annual outlook conference will feature a morning keynote address from Port of Houston Authority chairman Janiece Longoria and a luncheon keynote from ExxonMobil senior vice president Lynne M. Lachenmyer. Longoria is expected to address overall tonnage and bulk cargo increases that led to the port’s historical high in revenue for a single month in May, 2013, as well as plans for $200 million in capital projects to modernize public terminals in advance of expected increase in marine traffic from the Panama Canal expansion. Lachenmyer is expected to discuss global natural gas markets and how those markets could impact natural gas exploration, exports and chemical plant expansions in the U.S.

In addition to the keynotes, the petrochemical and maritime outlook conference will host two panel discussions. A petrochemical panel will review plans for local plant expansions and give an overview of the economic health of the industry. Van Long, ChevronPhillips Cedar Bayou plant manager and Woody Paul, ExxonMobil Baytown plant manager will be joined by Hector Rivero, president and CEO of Texas Chemical Council (TCC) and Rudy Underwood of American Chemistry Council (ACC). TCC & ACC see natural gas from shale formations in America as “game-changers” that could rejuvenate America’s chemistry industry, strengthen U.S. manufacturing, boost exports, create jobs – and significantly improve America’s energy security.

Improving Local Economy to Get Major Boost with $35 Billion Investment

A maritime panel will look at steel imports in light of pending industry expansion and continuing exploration of Texas natural gas fields. The panel also will discuss potential increases in shipping to the Port of Houston as the Panama Canal expansion is completed. Maritime panel members include Eric J. Change, Hanjin Shipping America, Patrick Hughes, CMA-CGM (America), and Rich Brazzale, Coutinho & Ferrostaal.

Congressmen Gene Green and Randy Weber will kick off the conference with updates on congressional activity especially as it impacts economic growth, workforce development and regulatory oversight for the region.

The Economic Alliance Houston Port Region outlook conference takes place following recent positive economic results and announcements of significant capital investment. According to a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas report, June’s Texas manufacturing production index surged to its highest point in more than two years. The American Chemistry Council reported that low-cost natural gas, used as both fuel and feedstock, kept the chemical industry competitive in the export market last year. In 2012, U.S. chemicals trade balance expanded to $11.7 billion from $9.3 billion. A recent Houston Port Bureau study of the Houston Ship Channel concluded that petrochemical and manufacturing industries will invest up to $35 billion in capital and maintenance which could result in 111,700 direct construction jobs and 154,100 induced and indirect jobs.

“This is a great opportunity for economic growth and prosperity for our region,” said Chad Burke, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region. “Our community and companies that work in our region will benefit from this growth. There will be thousands of jobs for our residents as a result of work secured by companies in the region – engineering and architectural firms, construction and maintenance companies, steel fabricators, logistics companies and support industries, such as pipe and valve companies and suppliers.”

Burke expects nearly 600 people to attend to hear about industry growth and work that might come their way. The growth is not without its challenges, according to Burke.

“We expect our speakers to address their challenges,” he said. “We know that companies look for reasonable and fair regulatory and tax environments, and an educated, skilled workforce. The Economic Alliance already has brought together industry and education to work on plans to develop a local workforce that can support future growth.”

Burke says that San Jacinto College and Lee College will attend the conference and have booths. People interested in how to qualify for jobs created by industry expansion can meet with representatives from the colleges who will be conducting specific training for industry jobs.  The conference will be held at Pasadena Convention Center, 7902 Fairmont Parkway, Pasadena, Texas, 77507, September 5th, 8 a.m.— 2 p.m.. Contact the Economic Alliance’s Marisela Cantu, (281) 476-9176 or Marisela@allianceportregion.com, for tickets or sponsorship information.

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