Houma-Terrebonne a booming economic center

Terrebonne Top 10 Taxpayers and beyond
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Top 10 Lafourche Taxpayers
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Terrebonne Top 10 Taxpayers and beyond
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Top 10 Lafourche Taxpayers
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Parish President Michel Claudet has seen just about everything in his six-plus years as the political leader for the people of Terrebonne Parish.

Good, bad, indifferent – he’s seen it all. Hurricanes, oil spills, levee construction, road construction, infrastructure expansion – you name it, he’s had to face it.

But what Claudet is currently seeing in Terrebonne is something that is unrivaled in both our area and the rest of the country.

Terrebonne Parish is economically booming with growth rates that are among the best in the United States. That growth, combined with a low unemployment rate and a large number of high-paying jobs has firmly solidified Terrebonne as one of the best business economies in America.

Sales tax numbers are currently up more than 10 percent in Terrebonne for 2014, compared to 2013 figures – a sure sign that people are both employed and are earning more money in both Houma and the surrounding communities.

These factors, combined with other quality of life benchmarks, were the driving forces behind the Houma-Thibodaux area being named the No. 2-ranked happiest metro area in America, according to a study released this summer.

The numbers are overwhelming and hard to ignore. Claudet is impressed. He said he feels blessed to be the parish president at such a glowing time in our area’s history.

“I hate for someone to jinx us by telling us that things are going this well, but right now things are going great,” Claudet said. “Now, it’s our goal to keep going strong like this into the future.”

The biggest culprit behind this influx of money flowing into our area is simple. It’s the Gulf of Mexico.

Claudet said business in the Gulf is surging forward without an end anywhere in sight. He said current work levels and revenue numbers from the oil and gas industry are at record levels.

The numbers are shooting far beyond those on April 19, 2010 – the day before the BP Oil Spill saga took place.

Claudet said Terrebonne is fortunate because it sits so close to Port Fourchon – the main port where most of this magic is taking place.

That strategic and prime location allows the parish to welcome an influx of business in the oil and gas industry – from shipbuilding to services/supplies all the way to logistics and other related fields.

“We’re continued to exceed those pre-BP numbers,” Claudet said. “I just went to a meeting in Port Fourchon for LMOGA and their expectations for continued operations in the Gulf are amazing. We’ve far exceeded the pre-BP levels, and we’re expecting to almost double that level in the not-too distant future.

“There are just so many things that are happening. Each drilling rig out in the Gulf, you have to remember, it is almost like its own mini-General Motors plant. And with those rigs, there are just so many spin-offs that take place with things that are needed. Because of where we’re located, we’re just so thankful and blessed to be able to provide the services and the amenities that those people need.”

Economic consultant Loren Scott agreed with Claudet’s assessment and added some statistics to the parish president’s statement. He said rig counts are up and more and more oil continues to flow, which, of course, means more and more dollars will flow into our area.

“Yes,” Scott said with a laugh when asked if oilfield work is past BP levels. “For example, the deepwater rig count was at 33 before the spill. Now, it’s at least 40 and rising. So it’s growing and it’s returned, and the employment is certainly back up above pre-spill levels in general in the Bayou Region.”

So with the oilfield trending upward and things going smoothly, Claudet said Terrebonne Parish has made a concerted effort to diversify itself so that it can be an epicenter of sorts for all of the people of the Bayou Region to enjoy.

Claudet said Houma already has a natural advantage because of its reputation for being a “premiere retail center” for folks in both Terrebonne and also south Lafourche and even Morgan City and beyond – a place folks are willing to commute to for shopping and other entertainment purposes.

Because of that natural advantage, retail businesses and premier chain restaurants continue to surge into the area, which has diversified the city’s offerings.

Nowhere better can this be seen than on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Less than 30 years ago, the land bordering the main Houma road was nothing more than an empty slate of grass with a few outlying businesses. Now, MLK is nearly full to its capacity with restaurants, stores, hotels and housing units.

“We are so fortunate that our entire region looks at Houma as the retail center for shopping for our area,” Claudet said. “We are most thankful for that. We’ve seen so much retail activity open and so many major restaurants come in. Those are so many avenues that have opened that just bring additional sales tax into our area.”

Claudet said the effort now is to build and continue to expand. The parish president said Westside Boulevard will soon extend, which will open up new outlets for business.

“We’re extending Westside Boulevard – the one that runs to the Cannata’s one-way bridge right now,” Claudet said. “We’re going to make that bridge two ways, and we’re going to extend when it gets up to Martin Luther King, it’ll run through there and circle through the Ansley Place Apartments and come out through the Matherne Bridge. That’s going to open up a lot of additional retail for our area.

“And that’s exactly what we need to do, because we’re running out of space on that corridor, so we have to make sure that we can keep up with the demand and projects like this will do that.”

But at the end of the day, it all comes back to the oilfield. Claudet said Terrebonne is blessed with many things, but its relationship with the oil and gas industry is among the parish’s biggest blessing.

It’s no coincidence people in the area are so happy. Knock on wood, but things in Terrebonne are currently going just fine.

“There are so many things going on right now,” Claudet said. “It’s an exciting time, truly. We’re blessed to be a part of it all.”

The Terrebonne Parish Government Tower (pictured) has been an awfully happy place in recent months as sales tax collections are up and the parish’s economy continues to grow. As the local economy continues to blossom, population numbers are rising, as well.