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Message from Governor Rick Perry

State of Texas
Message from Governor Rick Perry

   When Hurricane Katrina devastated our Gulf Coast neighbors in early September, Texas opened its arms to an estimated 400,000 evacuees who had lost everything, including their homes. The southeast corner of our state, which has close cultural and economic ties to the people of Louisiana, generously provided hope to thousands of evacuees.
   In the midst of caring for the human tide of evacuees, yet another storm barreled toward Southeast Texas. Just weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Rita made landfall near Southeast Texas — the heart of the Texas oil and gas industry.
   Today, Southeast Texas provides more than 20 percent of the jet fuel and 11 percent of the gasoline to the nation. Three Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) projects that will bring more than $3 billion in investment are underway or planned in the region, and industry leaders are considering a $3 billion refinery expansion. Southeast Texas is a vital portion of the Texas economy, and a significant factor in the global economy.
   Southeast Texas sustained enormous damage from Rita's winds and floodwaters. Yet despite the devastation of Hurricane Rita, Southeast Texas has made significant progress. The Rita recovery effort is symbolic of the can-do spirit of industry in Southeast Texas. Power was restored quickly, the business community pulled together to develop a unified strategy to get moving again, and community and faith-based groups have joined together to care for families. These efforts will rebuild business and support a ready workforce through community collaboration.
   In the immediate aftermath of the storm, energy industry leaders recognized that restoring power was priority number one, both for families and the small businesses which employ 80 percent of the region's workers. An estimated 1.3 million homes and businesses lost power. In response, Entergy and CenterPoint joined forces, and more than 15,000 out-of-state energy workers begin arriving in East Texas to repair damages to the energy infrastructure. Due to this tremendous collaborative effort, more than one-third of all customers had power restored within a week. All families and businesses in the region had power within three weeks of Hurricane Rita's landfall — more than two weeks ahead of schedule.
   The business community has displayed the same spirit of collaboration and innovation, despite the devastating impacts of the housing shortage, lost revenue and workforce shortages. Local business leaders have developed the Southeast Texas Recovery Plan, a ground-breaking effort that identifies priority challenges and a clear game plan for tackling them.
   Property damage and the large Katrina evacuee population have caused a significant housing shortage in Southeast Texas. The Southeast Texas Recovery Plan lays out efforts to secure private investment to fill housing and lodging gaps and work state and federal lawmakers on legislative housing solutions. All efforts are geared toward providing homes for a workforce to support current needs and the workforce requirements of a $3 billion-$6 billion petrochemical capital investment over the next 3-year period.
   The business community is also working to provide small businesses with "bridge loans" designed to cover expenses not met by insurance and before the Small Business Administration (SBA) can process applications for aid. To do so, local leaders have created the Southeast Texas Emergency Relief Fund, supported by the Friends of Southeast Texas, a group of prominent public and private sector leaders dedicated to raising funds for the Rita recovery. The region has set a goal of $5-10 million for the fund. Exxon-Mobil has paved the way with a generous $1 million donation; BASF and Bob Perry Homes have also provided generous contributions.
   The Friends of Southeast Texas exemplify the region's dedication to uniting business and industry with non-profit organizations and faith-based groups. Non-profit and faith-based groups have stepped in to serve the basic needs of families, including proving meals, repairing roofs, sending in chainsaw crews to clear debris, and helping families stay in Southeast Texas. All of these grass-roots community initiatives support the workforce in the region.
   Although Southeast Texas still has a long road of recovery ahead, it is paved with the strength of a unified community. The progress and determination of the business community in Southeast Texas is proof that strong communities create an environment where business and industry can thrive. Just months after Rita made landfall, Southeast Texas is beginning to thrive again, and becoming stronger everyday.

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