BEAUMONT - More than 20 government and business leaders gathered at the Southeast Texas Economic Roundtable in Beaumont Monday in part to hear State Comptroller Glenn Hegar.
The event was organized by the Jefferson County Republican Party.
But both Democrats and Republicans in attendance agreed your children are the priority to make the southeast Texas economy stronger.
"The Gulf Coast investments are billions of dollars,” said Hegar (R). “By companies making expansions around refineries and as well as our petrochemical industries."
Jefferson County County Judge Jeff Branick said our area refines more than ten percent of the nation's fuel.
But in order to sustain the economy, he points out, we need an educated workforce to replace retirees.
“There is a lack of qualified individuals to take those jobs that are going to be available,” said Judge Branick. “Very highly-paid jobs that are going to be available as the years pass on."
Beaumont city councilman Claude Guidroz, a former educator of many years, made the need clear.
"I'll bet you if we went around this room we would all admit that we ourselves rode on the shoulders of others,” said Guidroz. “There are people out there that don't have shoulders to ride on."
He quoted Beaumont ISD superintendent John Frossard.
“He said if you can read at grade level when you graduate, there's only a four percent chance that you ever live in poverty in this country,” said Guidroz. “But we have kids graduating reading at 8th grade level."
To fix the problem he said education funding should be used more wisely. Judge Branick echoed the consensus among Democrats and Republicans.
“We’re highly dependent on our youth and we can do a better job educating them at an earlier age,” said Judge Branick.
Also in attendance was Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames who said the city is in good financial standing.
Newly-elected Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman said while the energy and gas economy is important for his city, he wants his city to diversify its industry.
(© 2016 KBMT)