The Daily Review/Bill Decker
These ships were moored near Seacor Marine's Morgan City office Friday during an event to welcome the company back after 12 years in Houma.
Seacor's return beefs up marine industry presence here
If crossing the old or new bridge over Berwick Bay doesn’t convince you that St. Mary Parish lives on the water, a drive down Morgan City’s Railroad Avenue will.
You’ll see Oceaneering’s Morgan City site, Intermoor, Fab-Con, New Industries and Halimar. All build, repair or operate water craft of various kinds.
Now you can see a newly energized Seacor Marine facility after the Houston-based company moved the operations that left for Houma 12 years ago back to Railroad Avenue.
With the Seacor move, 50 jobs will return to a parish that has struggled through a four-year economic slump. Another company, Electra, is taking over a dry dock and is expected to employ 40 people here. But the developments also shore up a key economic sector for Morgan City’s present and future.
“We’re trying to relabel ourselves a marine hub,” Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi said Friday at a meet-and-greet event at Seacor’s Morgan City office. “It’s a big step forward, getting a company like Seacor, a worldwide company, to call Morgan City home.”
The tough economic times are often blamed on the four-year dip in the price of oil and its impact on offshore production and development. The number of St. Mary jobs in the natural resources and mining sector, which includes oil and gas extraction, dropped by 25 percent from November 2014 to last June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But two other sectors related to energy, and which cover many ship-related jobs, did even worse. Manufacturing jobs fell by 36 percent in the same period, and trade, transportation and utilities employment fell by 30 percent.
In all, St. Mary lost about 5,700 jobs between 2014-18. Manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities account for about 3,500 of those departed positions.
The Seacor and Electra facilities will add strength to a watercraft industry that also includes Conrad and Swiftships here, and Gulf Craft and Metal Shark up U.S. 90 in Franklin.
Grizzaffi praised Seacor’s leadership and the H&B Young Foundation for a successful result from negotiations that he called “intense.” The Morgan City government helped a little, too, he said.
“We’ve had a presence here for a period of time,” said Seacor Human Resources Director Willard Robison, “even when we were in Houma, Louisiana.
“So we decided it was time to come back to the facility in Morgan City, which has been good to Seacor and good to our employees.”
The ship-building row of which Seacor is again a part offers more than building or repairing vessels. Up the road is the Marine & Safety Center, operated by South Louisiana Community College’s Young Memorial Campus.
When Young Memorial officially became part of SLCC last summer, Associate Vice President Jermaine Ford said SLCC’s program “will be the No. 1 maritime program in the world.”
“All the companies are pieces of the puzzle in the offshore industry,” Grizzaffi said. “Even though we’re trying to diversify, we’re still an offshore hub, and a marine hub at that.”