Acadiana gains industrial jobs


02 16, 2012 by Daily Advertiser

Fishing tool specialist, pipeline project manager, rig systems specialist, welders, riggers, crane operators.

If the number of job openings is any indication, the oil and gas business in Acadiana is in a healthy state.

Anecdotal evidence points to renewed hiring in the industry and among service companies in the area. Various job listing services show numerous openings for oilfield workers. Radio spots advertise local companies searching for workers like welders, one company promising to pay more than anyone else.

While it's also anecdotal, the Lafayette Economic Development Authority's online Virtual Job Fair has been listing more oilfield jobs in the past year than the year before, Gregg Gothreaux, LEDA president and CEO, said.

"Over the past year there's been a tremendous increase in the number of positions that have surfaced," Gothreaux said.

That's good news for Acadiana, where the energy industry remains the leading economic driver, employing nearly 11 percent of the workforce in 2011 and generating nearly 41 percent of the Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area's gross domestic product in 2008, according to LEDA.

The above figures don't adequately reflect the full impact of the oil and gas industry on the Lafayette MSA, though, because a significant amount of related businesses are not classified as oil and gas, Gothreaux said. For instance, machine shops are classified as manufacturing, even though 90 to 100 percent of their work may be in the oil and gas business, he said.

The upswing in job openings has little to do with a loss of jobs due to the federal moratorium on drilling that followed the April 2010 BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast, Gothreaux said.

Officials expected a dramatic loss of jobs when the Obama administration halted deepwater drilling and permitting in the wake of the spill, the largest in U.S. history.

Their expectations were based upon the last big downturn in the industry, when thousands of jobs were shed. A generation of skilled workers was lost, leaving companies without the skilled workforce they needed when the oil and gas business recovered, Gothreaux said.

Oil and gas companies didn't let that happen in 2010.

"This time, they bit the bullet and kept their workforce," he said.

Companies did things like refurbishing rigs and other maintenance that they couldn't get to while business was

booming.

With the feds now issuing permits for offshore rigs, companies are hiring. But the uptick in hiring also is due to the huge growth in the shale exploration on land across the country in Texas the Dakotas, Pennsylvania and North Louisiana, Gothreaux said.

"Those shale plays are significant and the work is growing significantly," he said. "It's our people" being hired.

Acadiana's oil and gas and service companies are the best in the world and their workers travel all over the world to produce energy because they're the best, Gothreaux said. Companies may be opening offices in other places, but their base remains Louisiana and that's where their skilled workers live and spend their money, he said.

The final piece of the pie contributing to the uptick in hiring is the Tuscaloosa marine shale play stretching across nearly three million acres of central Louisiana and southwest Mississippi.

"That's ultra-deep activity," Gothreaux said. "It's very expensive, but it looks like it's going to be very successful. That's very close to home."

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