Airport steadily grows

Transportation is huge for business in the oil and gas industry to be done as quickly and efficiently as the industry demands.

Think about it – most of the work being done offshore is taking place many, many miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, which means that getting workers to and from rigs is no easy chore.

But luckily for Port Fourchon, it owns and operates a quickly growing airport that’s seen its services grow – even in the face of the current downturn in the economy.

According to Port Fourchon Executive Director Chett Chiasson, operations at the South Lafourche Leonard Miller Jr. Airport remain steady and strong, even in the face of low oil prices that have slowed down a lot of the area’s offshore work.

Chiasson said the airport has grown immensely over the years and is now a gigantic piece that’s allowed Fourchon to become such an economic hub for Louisiana and the entire United States.

“Operations at the airport have been very strong as far as takeovers and landings are concerned, and that’s very, very good,” Chiasson said. “To date, the number of passengers we’ve transported is a number that’s something around 75,000. Think about that. That’s an awful lot of people. We heavily service the oil and gas industry there, and we take a lot of pride in doing that and getting better with what we can do and offer.”

Several recently completed projects have been a huge source of pride for people at the airport.

The attention-grabbing renovation is the big one – the $29 million project that Chevron recently completed. It’s a complete overhaul of the company’s airport operations that aims to move 6,000 additional workers through the airport per month – doubling the activity the facility sees in a 30-day period.

Chevron officials have said the project is complete, and all that’s left for the oilfield juggernaut is moving all of its Gulf of Mexico operations to the Galliano facility – a process that will take place slowly over the next few years.

Warner Williams, the vice president of Chevron’s Gulf of Mexico business unit, said the company’s Leeville facility has already shut down and moved its business to the Galliano facility.

Before long, Chevron’s operations in Venice will also be based out of Galliano, thanks to the project, which Williams said will create jobs and be huge to the economy of Lafourche Parish.

“This facility upgrade is proof of our dedication to the community, and it’s proof that we recognize the Gulf of Mexico is the cornerstone of what we do in our business,” Williams said. “The people in this area are good people. There is no better place for us to have this airbase than in Galliano.”

Councilman Jerry LaFont agrees. He said during a ribbon cutting for the facility that it’s a blessing to have the project in southern Lafourche Parish.

“It’s a big thing for us,” the councilman said. “It’s great to see the commitment they’ve made to this area.”

But while the Chevron expansion generates a lot of attention, Chiasson said other, smaller projects have those with the facility excited, as well.

He said the airport is taking advantage of some new lighting technology to keep the area well-lit during nighttime hours.

“We want to get that done, and we’re working on that right now,” Chiasson said.

From there, Chiasson said work is also being done to bring new, smaller hangers to the airport to service fixed-wing aircrafts.

That project is still in the planning stages, and isn’t yet complete.

The big-picture goal is for continued growth, and planning is being done for that to take place as soon as the price of oil goes back up.

Chiasson said the airport will someday have a new terminal – a project that was discussed, but was pulled back in once the downturn took place.

But once the industry gets back rolling, that will be a reality.

“It got pushed back a little bit because of what we’re dealing with,” Chiasson said. “But we know it’s coming. We hopefully plan to build that in a couple more years once things pick back up.”

Add it all together and it’s a string of victories for the airport, which has changed drastically in the past 15 years.

The airport was once under control of parish government – a relationship that ended in 2001 when the Greater Lafourche Port Commission took it under its wing.

Since that time, air traffic has increased by more than 4,000 percent, according to statistics on Fourchon’s website. It’s a number that will likely increase as more of Chevron’s work comes into Galliano.

“It’s amazing to see,” Chiasson said. “The airport has grown so much.”

With that growth has come greater responsibility, of course, but Chiasson said it makes the industry better and more efficient, and that’s all that matters to both he and others with the airport.

“It really allows us to be in truly the multi-modal business,” Chiasson said. “We have the capability for aviation logistic services as well as highway infrastructure by trucking. We have multi-modal capability, and we wouldn’t have that without this airport. Just having that ability and being able to offer that, is good for us.”

Port Fourchon growth unheraldedCOURTESY | PORT FOURCHON

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