If the energy industry sinks in Louisiana, it won't be for lack of moxie.
Acadiana’s oil and gas leaders, gathered Wednesday at the Petroleum Club in a run-up event to the Oct. 24-26 Louisiana Oil & Gas Oil Exhibition show, lamented the state of the industry and factors they say undermine it — lingering, low commodity prices; layoffs; and a tough litigation environment.
Kenny Crouch, this year's volunteer LAGCOE chairman, looked over the crowd gathered to welcome Don Briggs as "LAGCOE Looey," the good-will ambassador for this year's show, and noted how times had changed.
"We have a lot of different faces; a lot of the faces from the past don't have jobs or have moved on from the industry," he said. LAGCOE expects to lose money in this year's show, with expected lighter participation and sponsorship.
"It's hard to raise money for any cause," he said.
Here's how much times have changed for Crouch: He's moved his business from beleaguered Lafayette and Louisiana to Texas, a friendlier energy environment.
Here's how beleaguered others in the industry feel: Ray Lasseigne, who offered the opening prayer at the LAGCOE Looey luncheon, lamented in his heavenward plea, "Father, it seems like we have a target on our back." Unemployment, regulatory and legal issues have undercut the industry in Louisiana, he said in his prayer.
"We need to feel some sense of optimism," former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with Briggs in 1964, said after the luncheon. A state lawmaker from Lafayette when oil and gas bottomed out in the early '80s, Blanco said it took at least five years before the industry regained its footing back then. She said she senses some "small signs" of recovery now.
But Wednesday's luncheon was not about regret.
LAGCOE executive director Angela Cring detailed plans for a three-day October event at the Cajundome that will include the largest ever technical schedule, a full complement of international visitors and a "Shark Tank"-type pitch competition from would-be energy innovators. The organization continues to refine its mission to include cultivating business growth and fostering an educated workforce.
LAGCOE turns 62 this year, Cring said. It's not ready for early retirement.
Briggs, the latest in the line of three dozen "LAGCOE Looeys" and president of Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, donned the traditional hardhat that he'll wear at the show and promised to offer unabashed encouragement. He cited LAGCOE Looeys of the past like J.P. Owen, Frank Harrison and Paul Hilliard, who he said were his industry mentors.
And in the still of the luncheon's aftermath, he declared he was "proud to be a Christian, proud to be an American and proud to be an oilman."