Local businesses in the Greater Port Arthur area will soon have another option for creating networking opportunities between themselves and for building stronger ties with both the community and industry at large.
The Port Arthur Greater Minority Chamber of Commerce is officially endorsed by the NAACP and will officially start during the first week of July.
President and CEO Roosevelt Petry said it’s a way to bring people together and it’s something Port Arthur has needed for years for its minority populations.
“We just feel we’re not receiving representation,” Petry said. “And so we feel like before you get someone else to help you, you have to help yourself.”
As a result, the PAGMCC was formed.
“We created the chamber to network together and to help people get their certifications in HUB, DBE and other minority-type certifications,” Petry said.
HUB stands for Historically Underutilized Business and DBE stands for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. Both are ways for small, minority and women-owned businesses to raise their visibility for procurement opportunities.
“In many cases, like with Texas Department of Transportation, it gets you on their bidders list and they email bids on jobs,” Petry said. “They already said they want to work with us in training people for free.”
Petry said PAGMCC would give industries another source that would deal directly with minorities.
“We expect them to give us the same level of participation they would any other chamber of commerce,” Petry said. “We’re here to help the industry locate minorities that are qualified; and, in return, it helps grow the Port Arthur community.”
Petry said he has heard from many people over the years who have felt they have not been adequately represented by the current chamber. Petry said these people range “from barber shops to beauty shops to roofing companies to electrical companies to the people who cut grass.”
“Then you got guys who work inside the plants,” Petry said. “Minorities, ma and pa shops — they feel no representation is given to them. We’ll give them a forum to network amongst each other… we can network and do business with each other.”
And even though Petry has been with the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce for nearly 20 years, he said it does not accurately represent the city.
“You have to be honest, when you look at the way the chamber is and who’s on the board, it doesn’t reflect the community,” Petry said. “It doesn’t reflect the people who live here or the local businesses.”
Petri said there would not be a conflict of interest between the two chambers.
“There will be some overlap in services,” Petry said. “I’m sure a lot of chambers have overlap; but, we’re going to have some things that other chambers won’t have.”
Petry declined to specify what those services would be, but said they would come out later.
“That’s not to say we don’t need that chamber,” Petry said. “We don’t want an adversarial relationship. Just because they’re there, that doesn’t mean there is no need for a minority chamber.”
Petry expressed hope that both chambers would be professional enough to work together, support one another and “service not just some people but all people.”
In order to do this, Petry plans to reach out to the businesses in the community.
“We’re going to do a grass roots campaign. We want to go to them and reach out.”
Petry gave the following example of a local restaurant that would benefit from minority chamber membership.
“If we have a meeting, I’m going to call that restaurant and tell them we have a certain number of people and we want to patronize them,” Petry said. “We hope all members would go over there and eat there.”
Furthermore, Petry said chamber members could use fellow members in the network whenever there’s work to be done.
“We would spend money with people in our network, try that network first, then for services not provided by our members, we would go outside our network,” Petry said.
He said he has spoken with various heads of city and district like city manager Brian McDougal, Floyd Batiste and Mark Porterie of the City of Port Arthur, Port Arthur EDC and Port Arthur ISD respectively. He said all of them want to be members.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to from beauty shops to barber shops want to be members,” Petry said. “I even expect members of the Port Arthur Chamber probably want to be members.”
Petry said anyone could join.
“At the end of the day, our board is not made up of just minorities,” Petry said. “This is not a minority thing; it’s to truly help people, our businesses and our youth.”
According to Petry, the PAGMCC would act as a liaison between industry and local businesses.
“We can’t expect other people to fix problems in the community; we have to take charge. Now we have a vehicle to work through that that can reach out and help us get some help.”