Family-owned businesses have been at the heart of the oil and gas industry for as long as its existed in Louisiana and the Gulf South. So many of today’s success stories began with just a man, a boat and a dream. Not all of them made it of course, but those that did have created a lasting legacy that’s still a vital part of the economic strength of the state. Despite the heady highs and devastating lows, many family-owned companies have endured and are now in the care of second, third and even fourth generations.
The Moncla family of Lafayette has a long history in the oil and gas industry. Family patriarch Cecil Guinn relocated the clan from Monroe to Jennings
in 1942 to take advantage of the new opportunities in the industry. He went on to sell tools in Houma for several years before being transferred to
Lafayette, where he decided to start his own company. In 1957, Guinn created Pelican Well Service and bought his first workover rig. The company grew
steadily over several decades; by the mid-70s Pelican had grown to 19 land rigs and two swab trucks.
Cecil and Virginia Guinn with their grandson,
Mike Moncla at the Pelican Well Service
office in 1972.
Virginia Guinn with a brand new
1,000 hp twenty-four hour workover rig on
display at the 1981 Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil
In 2015, Charlie Moncla was
selected as LAGCOE “Looey.”
“The Moncla Boys” from left to right,
Mike, Matt, Marc, and Buck in 2012
at their facility on the
Breaux Bridge Highway.
Mike Moncla continues the tradition
of supporting LAGCOE. He currently
serves on the Board of
Directors of LAGCOE and Moncla
Companies is a longstanding sponsor
of the organization as well
as the technical conference and
Guinn’s son-in-law Charlie Moncla joined the company in 1971, starting out as a roughneck. He would work his way all the way up to VP, helping his mother-in-
law Virginia run the company following Guinn’s death in 1977. Acting as president, Virginia successfully led the company for several decades before
deciding to sell the business and retire in 1992.
Charlie Moncla left Pelican in 1984 to start his own company, Moncla Well service, with only one rig and six employees. Though the 80s were lean
years for many in the industry, Moncla saw the opportunity to buy rigs on the cheap from failing manufacturers.
His business continued to thrive and he eventually brought several family members into the enterprise. His son Mike joined in 1993, followed by his brother Buck and another son, Marc, in 1996. Over the next decade, another of Charlie’s brothers, another son and two nephews would also join the company. By the early 2000s, Moncla companies had acquired 11 other companies and become the largest independent workover rig business in the country. They also added rig hauling trucks, eight inland barge rigs, a swabbing company (BOSS) and a drilling subsidiary.
But like many family companies, in 2007 Charlie Moncla decided the time was right to sell. With 53 rigs and nearly 1,000 employees, Moncla Companies
had the perfect footprint for any strategic buyer looking for a presence in the region, and was soon acquired by Key Energy. The Moncla family
members would stay on and continue managing operations, now as Key Energy’s southeast division. But after a few years, Mike, Marc, Matt and
Buck Moncla decided to buy two parts of the original company back from Key Energy: Moncla Marine (barge fleet) and BOSS (swabbing operation).
The opportunity to revive their family company was too good to resist, and the Monclas would go on to acquire andgrow the business with additional
barges, land rigs and a Workover & Drilling subsidiary.
Rebranded as Moncla Energy Services, the company now includes Moncla Workover & Drilling, Moncla Marine, Moncla Offshore, Moncla Wireline, Moncla Slickline, BOSS, Moncla P&A, and Moncla Pressure Pumping. Though the company survived the BP disaster and moratorium with little trouble, the decline in oil prices that began in 2015 and other issues have presented the family with much tougher challenges.
Like other service providers, the new price environment has made it more difficult to continue operating profitably in many areas. Moncla has opted to shut down its barge rig division due to the low levels of activity and threat of coastal erosion litigation. The family company is instead investing in new land rig offices in Mississippi and West Texas and working to grow in those areas. From a peak of 633 employees in 2014, to as few as 240 in 2016, the company currently has about 375 employees.
Mike Moncla, President of Moncla Companies, points to the litigious climate of Louisiana as another factor inhibiting further growth here. “We would love to see our children be able to follow in what our grandfather started back in the 50s,” he said. Despite the uncertainties about the road ahead, Moncla takes comfort in knowing that whatever challenges the company may face, they’ll face it together, as a family. “We all want the best for the business — there’s great respect between us.”