Thursday morning ABiz broke the story on Plains Exploration & Production Company's plans to build an $18 million deepwater facility in the Lafayette Economic Development Authority's industrial park on Bernard Road in Broussard, and this afternoon LEDA chief Gregg Gothreaux shared the details.

PXP_DeepwaterSpeaking at the second annual State of the Economy luncheon at the Cajundome Convention Center, Gothreaux revealed that over a five-year period that started in late 2012, the independent oil and gas producer's expanded Gulf of Mexico operations will have created more than 600 direct and contract positions locally with an average annual salary of $100,000.

Commonly referred to as PXP and headed by Lafayette native Jim Flores since 2002, the Houston-based company employs approximately 220 people in Lafayette and the surrounding communities, Gothreaux said. The company's Lafayette offices are located in Park Tower at 400 Kaliste Saloom Road. What many people haven't known until now, Gothreaux noted, is that PXP’s local workforce has been growing since its acquisition of deepwater assets in the Gulf of Mexico last November. "They've already hired, quietly out on Bernard Road, 180 people," he told the sold-out audience.

The project consists of a new warehouse and administrative offices to support PXP's growing offshore deepwater Gulf of Mexico operations. Last year PXP paid $6.1 billion (more than its market value at the time) for BP's and Royal Dutch Shell's stakes in a group of Gulf of Mexico oil fields, a move that doubled its crude production. BP got $5.5 billion in the deal, which closed in early December; the divestiture was part of the London-based oil and gas giant's ongoing sell of assets to pay for the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“We are committed to the Lafayette area for the long-term," PXP Executive Vice President of Exploration and Production Doss R. Bourgeois said in a prepared release. "We expanded our presence in Lafayette and surrounding communities to manage our day-to-day deepwater Gulf of Mexico operations.”

The 120,000-square-foot warehouse and storage facility will include a climate controlled storage area housing equipment and parts for offshore operations. In addition, an 8,000-square-foot office and conference room facility are being built to manage day-to-day operations at the warehouse yard. The office facility will also serve as a response center during hurricane evacuations and other events that affect PXP’s offshore platforms, according to the release.

“With more than 750 oil-and-gas-related businesses in Lafayette and many more throughout Acadiana, this region is the hub for energy production and services in the Southeastern U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico,” Gothreaux said in the release. “Our community provides an industry-savvy environment and a workforce that is highly skilled, making Lafayette very attractive to energy companies. The expansion of PXP’s deepwater operations to the Lafayette area will bring additional high-tech, high-paying jobs and suppliers to the area.”

PXP purchased the 26.5-acre industrial park site, selecting it in part because of its proximity to Lafayette, according to Gothreaux. Construction should be complete in September 2013.

LEDA, Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel, Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais and other community leaders assisted PXP. Gothreaux told the audience that Durel, who traveled to Houston to help land the deal (and was out of town for the luncheon), wondered if anyone would know that he had promoted a site in Broussard (an obvious reference to the well-known animosity between the two mayors). "Well, now they do," Gothreaux said, also noting that the mayors worked together to make sure the company was comfortable with its decision to make a major investment in the parish and had access to the resources it needed.

"We have been working with the Plains Exploration & Production team for some time now," Langlinais said in a brief statement he released this morning. "We are going to begin working on short-term, mid-term and long-term infrastructure needs on Bernard Road to support this project and future projects we hope will soon follow. Jim Flores's decision to locate this facility here in Broussard is a major addition to the oil and gas technology corridor we are building in this city, and we look forward to working with Plains Exploration & Production for many years to come."

The LEDA chief also hinted that there may be more good news to come from Flores and PXP: "I think we haven't heard the last from one of our favorite sons, Mr. Flores."


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