LAGCOE event, Energy Fest, marks measured return to Lafayette, hope for a rebound
Oct 03, 2022
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BY KEN STICKNEY | STAFF WRITER | THE ADVOCATE
OCT 3, 2022 - 2:30 PM
The long road back to LAGCOE’s glory years may start with an oil and gas show in Lafayette this month.
Or, LAGCOE’s EnergyFest 2022, scheduled for Oct. 19-21 at the Cajundome Convention Center on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus, may provide a new path forward for energy professionals and companies that want to revive what was for six decades the state’s largest oil-and-gas exposition.
Larry Tolleson, COO of Renaissance Offshore in Houston and chairperson of the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition executive committee, remembers the huge shows that LAGCOE hosted as recently as 2015, with more than 17,000 people attending. Tolleson, a Shreveport native and Louisiana Tech engineering graduate, worked on the registration committees for many years, then as treasurer before he worked his way through the board positions to chair, a two-year term that will end in 2024. He’ll remain on the board as immediate past chair.
At its zenith, the show, founded in Lafayette in 1953, was held in the Convention Center, adjacent Cajundome and exhibitor booths — more than 400 exhibit spaces were sold some years — spilled over into much of the parking lot. LAGCOE meant big business for the industry representatives who attended. It was also big business for restaurants and hotels.
But fierce international competition in the energy industry turned the oil-and-gas business upside down, with plunging prices per barrel and downturns for the energy service industries that called Lafayette and Acadiana home. By 2017 attendance dropped precipitously and the show was moved to New Orleans in 2019, closer to an international airport, world-class entertainment and offices for industry leaders. The hope was that the move to New Orleans would revive the show. It didn’t.
COVID-19 and the pandemic that was declared in 2020 hampered LAGCOE and other trade shows for the better part of two years. Now, LAGCOE leaders say, they’re ready to rebound in a familiar setting.
“We did New Orleans,” Tolleson said. “Now we’re back.”
Tolleson has spent the past 20 years working in Houston but kept active with LAGCOE. Prior to that, he worked 18 years in Lafayette. He did offshore work and was a project engineer, among many positions.
Sara Bourque, LAGCOE executive director, said Energy Fest 2022 will be smaller and more Louisiana centric than the big shows at the Cajundome. LAGCOE used a third-party consultant to review the show and suggest new steps to make the show more marketable.
“In South Louisiana, we have a vibrant, unique culture. So we will take full advantage of the region and infuse that into the floor show,” she said. That will include some Cajun music, which she said would be “festive and vibrant” and provide a cultural spin for everyone not from our region.”
She said the show will stay indoors where it is climate controlled. Last week, she and Tolleson said there were about 100 exhibitors committed to the show, which should fit comfortably inside the Convention Center. LAGCOE is still making sales calls.
The show will stay close to its roots — oil and gas — but other, alternative and renewable energy providers have been invited. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will have a presence at the show.
What matters is regaining the show’s footing. For example, Bourque said that the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston’s attendance grew from dismal attendance numbers of the year before. Nonetheless, and despite robust oil and gas prices, the numbers there were far behind their pre-COVID numbers. Most energy shows have suffered of late.
Ben Berthelot, CEO of Lafayette Travel, expressed disappointment when LAGCOE went to New Orleans in 2019, the first time the show was presented outside Lafayette. Back then, he said that LAGCOE was the “Super Bowl” of area tourism events.
He’s glad LAGCOE has returned and has worked with the organizers to help out where possible.
“It was still a major event when it left,” he said. “There were a lot of emotions tied to them leaving.”
Yet it is still an important event, Berthelot said, and his office is intent on helping LAGCOE rebound to the extent that is possible.
“It’s going to be a smaller event than they are used to,” he said of Energy Fest 2022. “We’re glad to have them back.
“LAGCOE is more than a three-day event. LAGCOE works year-round for the oil and gas industry.”
“We’re still a hub, more service-driven than operator driven,” Bourque said. “This is still where the service companies are positioned.”
“Acadiana is still the hub where all the work gets done,” Tolleson said.
So here’s hoping.
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