About Face: Five Years of the Petrochemical and Maritime Outlook Conference

Chair Longoria

Morning Kaynota, Janiece Longoria, Charmain Port of Houston Authority (2013).

In late 2009, Chad Burke, President and CEO of Economic Alliance Houston Port Region, was approached by Dennis Winkler of Winkler Public Relations and Chris Hext of Lubrizol, with the idea to start a new conference that would provide a forum for businesses in the region to hear future economic projections from key industry leaders while serving as a venue for important business-to-business networking. The idea gained quick traction in a region where the petrochemical industry employs over 33,000 workers and supports an additional 300,000 jobs in related industries.

In 2010, the Economic Alliance launched the first Petrochemical and Maritime Outlook Conference at the Pasadena Convention Center, where over 400 people were in attendance. “A conference like this is the perfect place for companies to gain a top-down perspective that will help make their business forecasting more accurate,” says Burke. Presentations included an introduction to the lock expansion projects at the Panama Canal, a unique view of the national economy by economist Dr. Loren C. Scott, economic projections by panelists from The Dow Chemical Company, Shell Chemical LP, ExxonMobil Chemical Company, and a keynote presentation from Robert Moore, Director of the American Institute for International Steel.

Silvia de Marucci of the Panama Canal Authority presenting on the lock expansion projects at the first Petrochemical and Maritime Outlook Conference in 2010.

Silvia de Marucci of the Panama Canal Authority presenting on the lock expansion projects at the first Petrochemical and Maritime Outlook Conference in 2010.

The prospects for the region in 2010 looked very different. For example, in his talk, Dr. Scott painted a rather bleak picture for the future of expansion and attraction of new business to the region, citing the high cost of resources, an inadequate workforce, and unfavorable taxing and regulatory regimes. This sentiment was echoed throughout the conference that day. Attending company representatives stated they had no plans to expand their local operations and were considering redirecting their resources to locations outside the region, outside Texas, and even outside the U.S., where more favorable business conditions existed.

During the 2012 conference, guests were made aware of a massive shift occurring in the business environment:  hydraulic fracturing opportunities were quickly being realized, and shale gas became available at a dramatic and historical low cost. Thus, between 2010 and 2012 prospects for the future had made a dramatic about face. No longer were presenters talking about moving operations out of the region. Many companies began sharing plans of local expansion, while others sought to establish a foothold in the region.

Since 2012, the growth in this region can only be described as a tidal wave of capital investment, featuring growth this region has not seen since World War II and the days of Spindletop, which signaled the onset of the oil and gas age.

PetroChemPanel

Hector Rivero of the Texas Chemical Council addresses the audience during the 2012 Petrochemical Panel.

Companies responding to a recent survey estimated they will spend no less than $35 billion in capital investment by 2015 in this region. In addition, an estimated $60 billion will be spent along the Texas Gulf Coast over the next three to five years.
The value of the Petrochemical and Maritime Outlook Conference is evident in the steady growth of the event over the past four years. Each year, available booth space sells out, registration continues to rise (over 600 people attended in 2013), and the program garners greater cross-industry participation. Over the last four years, conference speakers have addressed topics such as: environmental regulations, Panama Canal expansion and opportunities, transportation infrastructure needs, and the economic outlook for the steel, maritime, petrochemical, and logistics industries.

The conference, traditionally held on the Thursday following Labor Day, comes at a great time of the year when many companies are preparing their budgets for the next calendar year and have already identified the following year’s projects.
The Economic Alliance Houston Port Region would like to share a note of thanks to the Port of Houston Authority for their support over the past four years as the presenting sponsor.

This year, the 5th annual Petrochemical and Maritime Outlook Conference will be held on September 4, 2014, at the Pasadena Convention Center. Doors open at 7:00 a.m., and the conference will conclude at 3:00 p.m.

For more information, please visit www.allianceportregion.com/pmoc, or call Marisela Cantu at 281-476-9176 ext. 4.

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