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Facing oil downturn, LAGCOE tailors show to economy

Oct 15, 2015

A downturn in the oil economy has altered the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition 2015, scheduled for Oct. 27-29 in Lafayette, but has not diminished it.

That’s because since as early as January, LAGCOE’s staff and volunteers have been preparing for a show that would be held during tough times for the energy business.

"We could see the writing on the wall,” LAGCOE executive director Angela Cring said.

The writing said alter the focus of some facets of the show to make it more immediately relevant for operating in an unfavorable economy.

Right now, the biennial show will include 444 exhibitors, up from the 413 vendors who displayed at the Cajundome two years ago.

The difference: Some exhibitors have pared back the size of their rental space because of budget necessities, allowing additional vendors to rent untaken space for their booths.

"We are still slowly, consistently selling space,” Cring said Thursday.

Exhibition space is essentially the same — changes in floor space will occur with Cajundome alterations that will be made before LAGCOE 2017 — but even in tough times, the show holds value to those who present their products and services to LAGCOE attendees.

Here’s how valuable vendors believe floor space at LAGCOE is: The waiting list started with as many as 700 vendors this year. There is way more vendor interest than available booth space, which is sold both inside the Cajundome and on the surrounding grounds.

Vendors still need to participate in the show to market their products, Cring said, even if, individually, they reduce the size of their footprint. That continued interest is something that has "absolutely” pleased her as she prepares for her second LAGCOE as director.

Her first, in 2013, drew a record 17,000 participants. She’s uncertain what the numbers will show this year.

One change: There will not be a day open to the general public, a change made necessary for safety reasons. The show, presented by oil and gas professionals, will be only for industry people and those interested in entering the industry.

LAGCOE still attracts attention from international visitors, too.

Chosen by the U.S. Department of Commerce as one of only two oil and gas shows to participate in its International Buyer Select Program, the show will host six countries — Saudi Arabia and Ukraine for the first time. LAGCOE was slotted for five delegations, but added one late. Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine are sending "high-level” people to the show.

The third LAGCOE job fair — the first was at LACOE ’13, the next a "stand-alone” event in 2014 at the Cajundome — will start Thursday with fewer recruiting companies, perhaps eight or 10, but with a revised focus on preparing interested people to enter or rejoin the oil and gas industry.

"The focus all along has been to provide resources and career development opportunities for people,” Cring said. "We want to do things to help them stay ready.”

Here are some ways the job fair will do that:

  • The job fair will present quick, 20-minute sessions on leadership skills.
  • People will be available to do "resume reviews” for prospective job seekers, with tips on how to brush up or improve their resumes.
  • A photographer will be available to update prospective job seekers’ Linked-In mug shots.

The show also will focus on attracting more drive-up traffic, accommodating people who might travel to the Cajundome if only for one of the three days.

From all reports, Cring said, industry shows elsewhere have experienced attendance declines this year because of budget cuts during crunch times. So more focus has been placed on drawing people from the region, including digital marketing efforts.

"We want to make sure that all oil and gas people in the region come to the show,” Cring said. LAGCOE offers high-caliber presenters, national and international; more vendors; and a chance to experience a special community. And, she said, it’s free.

Can’t beat that in down times.

If you go.

Ken Stickney | The Advertiser