OUR VIEW: Area’s marine industry vital to America

In this week’s edition of The Times, we did our best to give a snapshot of the Marine and Industrial industry – a segment of our economy that is absolutely vital in pretty much everything that we do.

We profile companies – industry leaders that have withstood the test of time and have been able to survive decades, employing hundreds, if not thousands of employees locally.

We also tell feature stories of a few folks who have dedicated their life to the field – men like Black Blanchard, who have done just about anything that there is to do within the field.

Last, but not least, we detail trends within the field at a time when our economy is at a bit of a downward dip, but is still sustainable enough to keep folks working in our community.

The endeavor was massive, and our staff has been burning the phones in the past two weeks to make it happen without a hitch, but the undertaking was a necessary one because of just how important the industry is to our area.

Everyone in our community knows someone who works within this field. Be it a father, mother, brother, cousin, uncle, neighbor, friend or acquaintance, we all know someone who is a boat captain, roustabout, deckhand or laborer for a business that either works in or supplies the industry.

In the state of Louisiana we are blessed with a close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and with that, we have an abundance – if not a downright reliance on the water to keep our communities afloat, pun intended.

This is currently a critical time in the industry’s economy, as challenges exist that will either make or break how local business leaders push their company’s into the future.

The first thing that needs to be ironed out is the price of oil. As we’ve all seen in the past six months or so, oil prices have been lower than normal recently, a phenomenon that has allowed us to pay less at the pump for gas. Big source for short-term celebration, right? Well, yes. But one must also consider that lower oil prices sometimes slows work in the Gulf, which means that less money is being made by the hard-working men and women of Louisiana.

Experts questioned this past week explain that the lower prices are a short-term thing, and that work will be picking up to normal levels soon. This, at least, is based on long-term projections which tend to think that the Gulf of Mexico, and thus, Louisiana’s future, is bright as can be.

Focus in more locally and a huge decision will be made in the Louisiana Senate that could have a huge impact on our future.

According to a story in this week’s Marine Section, lawmakers will soon vote on a constitutional amendment to exempt offshore vessels from paying property taxes – a move that would free the state from having to reimburse vessel owners a full tax credit for that parish tax.

If the bill moves through both chambers of the Legislature and is signed by Gov. Jindal, Lafourche Parish could lose about $50 million in property tax revenue – about 40 percent of all property taxes collected in the parish every year, according to officials.

This would be a huge blow to our economy and something that is worth paying attention to in the coming days and weeks as a vote is made and this issue gets resolved.

Whatever answer is eventually decided upon, we hope that it’s one that is as fair and beneficial to our area as possible. We hope a solution is created that helps our people as best as they can possibly be aided.

Indeed, this past week has been a long one for our staff – a time where the midnight oil was burned routinely as we scrambled to try and crack out all of the stories to give the current pulse of the marine industry.

It was a chore, yes. But it was worth it. The industry is big enough, important enough and affects too many people locally to not gets its due.

We’re all affected by the industry. We’re all impacted by its encompassing reach.

Here’s to a bright future – one prosperous for both the industry and our people.