Lafourche Parish industries growing

Nov. 18
November 18, 2008
Catherine "Cat" Jacobs
November 20, 2008
Nov. 18
November 18, 2008
Catherine "Cat" Jacobs
November 20, 2008

Two hundred years ago, Lafourche Parish, named after Bayou Lafourche, was among the 19 original parishes that were carved out of what is now Louisiana.

The parish, which covers approximately 1,469 square miles of land and water, has more than 90,000 people stretching from its southern border along the Gulf of Mexico to northern Bayou Lafourche.

To some, Lafourche is a parish of marshes, sandy ridges, bodies of water and natural levees. However, it is home to several major industries that are crucial to the nation – oil and gas companies, sugar refineries, shipbuilding and commercial fishing businesses.

Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph recently updated the Tri-Parish Times & Business News on the aspects that make the area one of the more service-oriented parishes in southeast Louisiana.

“There are a lot of things throughout the parish that remind people about what services and attractions the parish has to offer,” she said.

BN: What are the largest industries in Lafourche Parish?

Randolph: I can definitely say that Bollinger Shipyard, Edison Chouest Offshore and several other businesses along Port Fourchon are the major draws to the area. Outsiders see the potential here and they see that Lafourche Parish is a good investment.

BN: What are the thriving parts of the parish?

Randolph: Right now, the parish is equally thriving. We have things going on throughout the parish that show signs of economic growth. In the south, the recent spike in gasoline prices has helped the offshore industry. The September 2008 storms created additional work for people in the Gulf of Mexico.

BN: What are some of the businesses that are expanding throughout the parish?

Randolph: We are definitely encouraging people to move to Lafourche Parish to seek employment because there are a lot of jobs available here. Bollinger Shipyard just received a new contract, and other businesses along Port Fouchon are upgrading and expanding.

We are also doing some additional work on the Lafourche Regional Agriculture Center with hopes of attracting more people to that work industry.

BN: What does the expansion at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center mean for the parish?

Randolph: Thibodaux Regional is working on its third phase of improvements. They are building a new emergency room. They have the funding and they want to accommodate more people. This is great for our area because what better way to attract people than to have quality healthcare.

BN: Lafourche Parish’s unemployment rate was low prior to the storms. How have the hurricanes impacted the area?

Randolph: Right now, the unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, which is below the state rate at 5.2. It’s also below the U.S. rate, which is 6 percent.

Lafourche’s labor force numbers show that 48,658 people in the parish are of working age, which is 16 and older. Of that, 46,344 people are actively employed. The other 2,314 say that they are currently unemployed but are looking for employment as we speak.

BN: What advancements has the parish made since you first took office?

Randolph: What comes to mind first is that the price of gasoline suddenly gave the parish notoriety. This area is so important because it produces so much of the nation’s oil and gas. We have been saying it for a long time. But when gas prices spiked as they did, people began to pay attention to how vital Lafourche was to the nation.

BN: Is that when the parish began to gain notoriety?

Randolph: Within two years this happened. Suddenly, Lafourche Parish gained the attention that it has been trying to get for a while.

Unfortunately, the message about the wetlands is not getting out as well as it should be. People need to know how integral the wetlands are to protecting oil and gas.

BN: How is Lafourche doing with its development plan?

Randolph: We have a five-year plan that focuses mainly on capital projects throughout the parish. We have more than $30 million budgeted for our capital outlay projects. Through October 2008, we have only spent $6.9 million, which makes up about 22 percent of what we anticipate doing.

BN: What are some of those capital projects?

Randolph: Some of the projects that we are working on that will greatly benefit the parish are the improvements to Louisiana Highway 1 from Golden Meadow to Leeville and adding a connecting road and bridge to the South Lafourche Airport corridor to increase usage of that area.

BN: What are some of the tourist attractions in the parish?

Randolph: The parish is working on several tourist projects. We are hoping to have our farmer’s market in Central Lafourche for avid fishermen to sell their goods up and running by next summer. We are also working with South Lafourche Beachfront Develop-ment to get some attractions around the Fourchon beach area.

BN: Are the North Canal Boulevard corridor hotels a reflection of industrial growth?

Randolph: The southern part of the parish has shown an increase in hotels for the last couple of years because of the offshore industry. Now, the northern area is starting to catch up. I think we have more hotels in the Thibodaux area are going up because more tourists are coming to the area.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph and Windell Curole, levee district director, discuss the parish’s ring-levee system. * File photo Tri-Parish Times