The petrochemical industry continues to feed into the economic success of Baytown and Mont Belvieu, driving the area to success and growth for the future.
That was the message delivered by B.J. Simon, associate executive director for the West Chambers County Economic Foundation, at the West Chamber County Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon Tuesday.
Clear signs of economic success have brought corporations like Buc-ee’s and HEB to Baytown and Mont Belvieu, and the prospects of a redeveloped San Jacinto Mall and a hotel and conference center in Baytown. Mont Belvieu also has the prospect of 60,000 square feet of new retail and office space coming this year.
According to Simon, the growth on the east side of Houston is outperforming what some economists predicted.
In an outlook of what could happen in the Houston area petrochemical cluster, economists looked at a timeframe from 2014 to 2021 that represented about $55 billion in various industrial projects.
A prediction by an economist from the University of Houston, when about 80% of projects had been completed, it was believed 2017 was going to be the apex of this activity with a precipitous drop going forward. But that prediction was incorrect, as the economic success in the area in 2018 and 2019 will hit $10.4 billion with various industrial projects planned for the area.
Between the JSW Steel USA’s pipe mill project, development of Covestro’s methylene diphenyl diisocyanate plant, ExxonMobil Baytown chemical expansion project and the capital investment of $5.9 billion in the midstream sector of Mont Belvieu, about 746 new and permanent jobs are expected.
“One hundred new jobs in Chambers County in the plastics and material resin production would result in $187 million economic impact to the county,” Simon said.
To further expand on a growing east Houston area, in 2018 there was a 3.3% growth in employment in Chambers County while unemployment rates continued to decrease — as of April unemployment was at 3.8%, according to Simon.
In the fourth quarter of 2018, jobs in Chambers County were above 16,000.
“That’s a 19% increase over time,” Simon said. “About 2,700 jobs have been added since the last census in Chambers County, which equates to 341 jobs per year.”
In 2017 the gross domestic product for Chambers County was more than $3 billion, which was an increase of 6.7%.
“That $3.05 billion gross domestic product for the county is basically about $76,000 per capita,” Simon said. “If Chambers County were a country, it would be in the top 10 in respect to the total GDP.”
“It’s an impressive stat when thinking about wealth creation and integration that’s occurring in this area,” he added.
With Baytown and Mont Belvieu’s economic success and population growth, it could merge with the similar success of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange (the Golden Triangle) to become what is called a mega-region. It’s estimated by year 2025 these Gulf Coast regions could become a mega-region with an estimated population of 41.1 million. In addition to population explosion, a mega-region is defined by environmental systems and topography, infrastructure systems, economic linkages, land use and shared culture and history.
Simon said all units of government in Chambers County, Harris County, City of Mont Belvieu, City of Baytown and the Port of Houston have been very prudent, aligning themselves to take advantage of the expansive economic growth that’s occurred over the last decade.
“I’m excited about where our area is going,” Mont Belvieu City Councilman Arnold Peters said. “And hopefully we can keep the growth up.”