Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The Port of Georgetown could become a much more significant port on the East Coast, providing thousands of jobs and boosting the economies of the county, the state and the country.
This could be done by committing to a promising future in the oil industry.
That was the message from Ted Falgout, director of Louisiana's Port Fourchon and Lori LeBlanc executive director of the South Louisiana Economic Council's Gulf Economic Survival Team, to members of the Alliance for Economic Development for Georgetown County.
Falgout said that when he was hired to take over Port Fourchon on the Gulf of Mexico's coast, it was a struggling area with two or three commercial fishing boats and the Gulf was called the Dead Sea.
After the port became a transfer station for parts, equipment and personnel heading out to the Gulf to produce oil and natural gas, it has grown to be one of the most successful ports in the U.S.
“Southern Louisiana now has an unemployment rate of three percent,” Falgout said, adding that the port supplies 30 percent of the nation's oil.
“The East Coast could have opportunities like we have had.”
He said that if Georgetown County, one of only two counties with a port in South Carolina, along with Charleston, wants to have a chance, we would need to have property available in the first lease sale.
“If you don't have property in that sale, you will probably miss the opportunity,” Falgout said.
Tim Tilley, chair of the Alliance and the Georgetown Port Task Force, said these two groups have been working together with County Council to push for port dredging.
The port is permitted for dredging to 27 feet and Port Fourchon only has a 24-foot draft, Tilley said.
He said he is excited about the possibilities and the first step is going forward with seismic testing in the ocean off our coast, which would give us an idea of how much oil is there.
“We don't know what the future holds, but it is interesting to think about different things our port could be used for,” Tilley said.
LeBlanc told the Alliance that southern Louisiana works to balance bountiful natural resources with being a key player in the oil industry.
“We provide energy that fuels our country, but we also maintain our status as a sportsman's paradise,” LeBlanc said.
She said the oil industry has a $4 billion impact annually for Louisiana and a $70 billion annual impact for the state with related pipeliner industries.
“There are many other viable industries that support the oil industry,” LeBlanc said.
“The oil and gas industry equals jobs, jobs, jobs. It is a critical part of Louisiana's economy.”
She added that during the recession, the Louisiana economy thrived and it is one of only 12 states in the U.S. that has more people employed today than in January 2008.
LeBlanc, who is also involved with the states Department of Natural Resources, did admit that there were tough lessons to be learned, including surviving the largest oil spill in the nation's history and surviving the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
“For those of us in South Louisiana, the oil and gas industry is part of our culture, who we are,” LeBlanc said.
“We have had our share of challenges, but we have met those challenges.”
About the Economic Development Alliance
The Alliance for Economic Development for Georgetown County is a private, non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote, implement and support activities designed to improve the economic development of the county and to maintain a quality climate for business and industry.
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