Burnett stepping down from chamber post

Odessa’s top economic development leader, Wesley Burnett, announced on Thursday that he will leave his job with the Odessa Chamber of Commerce at the end of September to become the new director for project strategies for Nacero, Inc.

Burnett, who has served as the chamber’s director of economic development for the past five years, was instrumental in recruiting Nacero to construct a $6.5-$7 billion natural gas processing and production facility in Ector County.

“It’s going to be interesting, and a lot of fun to work for a great company and stay in Odessa,” Burnett said after announcing his new job during the Odessa Development Corporation board meeting on Thursday.

Burnett said he’s enjoyed working for the chamber organization for the past 22 years, but the opportunity to oversee the creation of the Nacero facility was too good to pass up.

“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the economic importance of Nacero to our economy,” Burnett said. “It’s going to be a great capital investment.”

Although he will officially step down from his chamber job Sept. 30, Burnett said he will continue to help the organization until they find his replacement.

Odessa’s Black Chamber of Commerce President Chris Walker said the community will be hard-pressed to fill Burnett’s shoes.

“He is so knowledgeable,” said Walker who attended Thursday’s ODC meeting. “He’s a walking encyclopedia when it comes to economic development. Nacero is very lucky to get him.”

ODC Board member David Boutin praised Burnett’s economic efforts on behalf of the city. Boutin said Burnett’s leadership, and ability to bring community leaders together has been instrumental in Odessa’s continued economic growth.

Prior to serving as the chamber’s director of economic development, Burnett worked 10 years as director of economic developments for the Andrews Chamber of Commerce. From 1999-06, Burnett oversaw business retention efforts for Odessa’s Chamber of Commerce.

The ODC Board on Thursday voted to allow the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to use some of its existing funds to help pay for its annual banquet event scheduled for Sept. 16. The organization currently has $22,000 in funds that were issued, but not used in 2020, Hispanic Chamber Board Chairman Ben Quiroz said.

The organization earlier this year fired CEO Paul Garza after an audit found discrepancies in the Chamber’s operations account. Quiroz acknowledged during the meeting that the Odessa Police Department is still investigating the incident and has requested the organization’s financial records.

The ODC Board gave the organization permission to use some of the $22,000 to pay for its upcoming event, but agreed that the organization would have to provide receipts and written proof that any expenditure’s are only spent on marketing efforts.

The ODC and City Council in August voted to not issue the Hispanic Chamber any new dollars for the 2021-22 fiscal year.