Jindal: State to help McDermott workers find jobs, new use for site

AMELIA, La. — Gov. Bobby Jindal told the 350 workers at the McDermott fabrication yard that will lose their jobs when the yard closes in early 2014 that he wants to make sure the workers find good-paying jobs with other Louisiana companies.

Jindal held a press conference at the McDermott facility in Amelia after meeting with McDermott officials, McDermott employees and other industrial employers after McDermott’s announcement Monday that it plans to cease operations at the Amelia facility by early 2014 and move the yard to Altamira, Mexico.

Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret and Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink will be using their respective staffs help workers look for new employment opportunities with other offshore fabrication, shipbuilding and oilfield service companies in the bayou region and surrounding parishes, Jindal said.

Moret said a couple years ago he got word that there was a risk the yard could be closed, Moret said. “As the deep-water work in the Gulf increasingly shifts toward the heavier hardware that needs the deeper channel depths available here. That’s been a big threat to the yards,” Moret said.

McDermott renewed its lease at the Amelia site for five years with an option to go longer, Jindal said.

McDermott decided to renew its lease at the facility to keep the option to possibly reopen the yard if market conditions improve, Moret said. McDermott is also open to partnership opportunities with other companies, Moret said.

The state plans to set up job fairs for McDermott workers on-site, Eysink said. If the state needs to hold a job fair for employers to find employees, the state can do that as well, he said.

Aug. 15 will be the first meeting with job fairs at the McDermott facility and all of the services will be free to the companies and employees, Jindal said.

McDermott Vice President Steve Roll said one of the reasons the company decided to move the facility was the lack of deep-water access. “The physical limitations of needing deep water are very difficult to overcome,” Roll said.

McDermott’s fabrication facility in Amelia is capable of becoming a modular fabrication facility for big industrial projects because of the industrial construction boom in south Louisiana, Moret said. The state has announced more than $50 billion of new industrial construction projects and expects to announce more over the next year or so, Moret said.

McDermott employee Randall Loupe Sr., 59, who has worked at the McDermott yard in Amelia for 16 years as a maintenance electrician, said it was a sad day. “You hate to see a day like this come,” Loupe said.

He plans to go back to working on the Atchafalaya River maybe if a small yard facility is hiring, Loupe said. “I was planning to retire at 62. I was wishing we could have got BP, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” Loupe said. Loupe is confident he will be able to use his skills as an electrician at another company, he said.

Loupe was encouraged by what he heard and was pleased with the help the company has given him to find a new job, he said. “McDermott took care of us. We’ve all got bad days but it was enjoyable working over here,” Loupe said.

Many of the workers’ skillsets in the fabrication yard are in great demand in the region especially in south Louisiana, Jindal said. The workforce commission’s Rapid Response Team will focus on identifying the skills among the employees affected and helping them to get jobs with other companies, Jindal said.

All but one of the companies, Jindal and Moret met with at McDermott on Tuesday said that every type of position available at McDermott would fit with their job openings, Moret said.

Jindal said more needs to be done to dredge across the state. Jindal wants the Atchafalaya River and waterways across the state to be dredged to 30 to 35 feet though the congressionally mandated depths are only 20 to 25 feet, he said. That would help many industries in the state, Jindal said.

The state has been working with the state’s congressional delegation to increase that mandated depth, Jindal said. “The federal government, today, collects millions of dollars from industry for the specific purpose to dredge our channels and keep up our ports, yet does not use that money to actually dredge the channels and maintain those ports,” Jindal said. “That money is not being used to dredge our channels and our ports.”

State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, said when the governor visits that generally indicates good news, but Tuesday Jindal only gave the bad news.

The issue with the depth of the channel has gone on too long, and it is time for the state and Congress to “make it happen,” Jones said. “It’s going to continue to be a problem for us.”

The area is suffering from not having I-49 completed, and finishing that could reduce driving time to allow workers to live in the area and work elsewhere, Jones said.

“We try in the Legislature (to fix the state’s problems), but the political will has to come from the executive branch,” Jones said. “We need them to step up on that. I asked the governor, personally, just now, for some transition money for our Young Memorial vo-tech school to do some re-training that’s necessary for the folks here.”

The parish needs to retain as many of the McDermott employees as possible, Jones said.

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