Beaumont is a big small town, or a small big town (depending on your perspective). For the most part, the local contractors have been established here a long time. Fortified with the knowledge and stability of these contractors, and the steady guidance from the Joint Committee, the Beaumont Area has managed to maintain quality and extend knowledge to the ever-changing landscape of the Beaumont contracting industry. The reach of these efforts include the people at TxDOT, the work program, and the outof- town contractors.
In the past five years—in fact, since John Barton became District Engineer—Beaumont has experienced a rapidly changing succession of District Engineers and Directors of Construction. Admittedly, it has been a challenge. But just as challenge breeds opportunity, so too does this volatility provide an excellent environment for a new partnership. I Close-Knit Collection of Contractors Create Nucleus of an Otherwise Changing Work Environment believe we have that in Tucker Ferguson.
Less than a year ago, area members welcomed Tucker to the Beaumont Area. Not matriculating through the department as most D.E.s do, Tucker hails from Pennsylvania and took to his new job with open ears and an open mind. Area meetings have proven to be a great platform to introduce Tucker to Texas, TxDOT, area contractors, and how AGC facilitates interactions among all. It is with great hope that the area can hang on to Tucker for a while before he, too, may head on to bigger and better things within TXDOT.
One of my primary focuses during our area meetings is to act as a conduit to the Joint Committee. To me, this is an extremely vital part, of the association, and I am very proud of the work the Joint Committee has done to resolve issues over the years. I try to emphasize the minutes at each area meeting, which enables members to understand what types of issues are being escalated and what improvements have been made. It is a productive way to spark dialogue, both within area meetings and hopefully back to the Joint Committee.
Another priority this year (much similar to other areas) is PAC development. Raising PAC funds is a soft science, and people have many different ideas on how to make a successful event. This year, we held Beaumont’s first-ever event. I would call it successful, albeit more scaled down that we had hoped. This proved to be the attendees’ gain as the legislator-tomember ratio was very low. For $50 a plate, members had dinner with Senator Williams and Representative Ritter and were able to speak at length about issues facing our industry and their particular companies.
In the future, I believe more direct contact is needed to host a successful PAC event. For our first event we relied on mass emails, but experience has now taught us that more personal contact is needed to boost attendance.
One need not leave Beaumont for bigger and better things, however; it looks as if bigger and better things are coming to us. As a deep-water port and the fourth largest in the US, Beaumont is poised to receive a huge influx of traffic and cargo with the Panama Canal expansion, scheduled to be completed by mid-2014. This has the potential to create a lot of new work in our area for needed upgrades.
At the Texas Department of Transportation’s request, a Panama Canal Stakeholder Workgroup was created to make sure the state’s network of deep-water ports attracts as much traffic from the expansion as possible. Since Texas will be competing against other states and other countries for the traffic increases, the department created the work group in order to present a unified community of ports for the state of Texas.
For Beaumont specifically, it seems like we are behind the curve in preparation for this massive opportunity. If there is an upside, it appears that most other port areas are in similar situations. This is hopefully a great opportunity for Beaumont to get ahead.
Any influx of work would be welcome in the Beaumont area, since TxDOT’s letting volumes have continued to dwindle. Contractors performing work in this area have shifted appreciably to other types of work and have had to make some grim decisions regarding the size of their companies and the services they offer.
As with most areas, we are making it through these lean times, with the hope and expectation of more work in the future. Until then, Beaumont continues to rely on the strong relationships they enjoy with TXDOT, and look to the experience of its local contractor base for guidance through these challenging times.