A blue-ribbon delegation from Jefferson and Orange counties descended on the state capitol in Austin more than 350 strong this week for Golden Triangle Days. Months of planning by area Chambers of Commerce from Greater Beaumont, Greater Port Arthur, Orange, Vidor, Bridge City, Nederland, Port Neches and Groves paid off as it was impossible to ignore such a large, well-organized group determined to make the best possible case for the Golden Triangle area to legislators and state officials.
Representatives from industry – most notably the oil and gas interests that drive the Golden Triangle economy – were joined by mayors, county commissioners, city council members, college presidents, school teachers, economic development officials, nonprofits and ordinary citizens who engaged in three days of receptions, private briefings, public meetings and personal interaction with elected and appointed officials.
Those exchanges were not limited to formal encounters. An opening-day reception at the Austin office of Port Arthur attorney – and former state senator – Carl Parker was followed by an elaborate meet-and-greet on the mezzanine of the historic Driskill Hotel six blocks from the Capitol, headquarters for the delegation.
Monday was capped off by a Cajun feast and country music concert by Mark Chesnutt at the Austin Music Hall. The largest gathering of Golden Triangle Days saw delegates playing host to legislators and their staffs, state agency workers and assorted Austin heavyweights in a forum conducive to meaningful conversation amidst an evening of good food, music and fun.
Mary Ann Reid, president of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce and one of the key organizers for the event, said the hard work paid off.“We went to Austin to make the case for the Golden Triangle, and we feel like we accomplished that goal,” said Reid.
Back at the Driskill on Tuesday morning, the delegates gathered for a rally to support the oil and gas industry under the banner of “My Town, My Job, My Voice.” Jim Rich, president of the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, has been the driving force behind the campaign to restore common sense to the discussion of the energy future. He emceed the rally that featured remarks by Sen. Tommy Williams; Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business; Hector Rivero, president of the Texas Chemical Council; and a videotaped message from U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady.
The final event for delegates to get up close and personal with decision-makers came Tuesday afternoon during a golf outing at Wolfdancer Golf Club at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort.
In the end, the tough decisions that will be made in the coming weeks in the Texas Legislature will take place in an environment that has been informed by the 350-plus delegates who attended Golden Triangle Days in Austin – which was why they made the trip in the first place.