NEW ORLEANS — If Angela Cring worried about drawing a crowd to LAGCOE 2019, her fears were assuaged by Tuesday night, the eve of the three-day conference.
“My phone and email were blowing up,” she said, referring to last-minute registrations and calls of interest she was fielding for the biennial event presented by the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition. For the first time since LAGCOE was founded in Lafayette in 1953, the exposition is taking place away from that home base and at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in this city.
“This is an experiment to some extent,” said Cring, executive director at LAGCOE, catching her breath by the registration lines Wednesday afternoon. “We’re seeing what works well. Some things won’t work quite as well, and we will eliminate those.”
That accounting of what works may occur as soon as next week, when LAGCOE’s board reviews attendance numbers and event operations. The organization moved the event, held every other October, from the Cajundome in Lafayette to the Morial Center this year for several reasons, chief among them that the former facility wasn’t suitably large enough.
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In recent years, because of lack of available space, some vendors had to set up in tents in the Cajundome parking lot, which left them at the mercy of the weather. The event drew more than 400 vendors, with a waiting list of interested vendors that was just as long. In New Orleans, all of the vendors — there were about 300 Wednesday — fit comfortably into two adjoining halls.
Also, LAGCOE organizers believe the move to New Orleans will diversify show vendors and patrons to include more than offshore companies, from which LAGCOE has drawn heavily in the past, and that more international travelers will be able to more easily travel to the show.
Don A. Couvillon of Quality Mat Co. of Beaumont, Texas, said the new venue was pleasing.
“This is one, homogenous place,” he said, looking around the convention center. “It’s very linear but they can put in as many vendors as they care to put.”
He said his company, established in 1974, has been a regular LAGCOE vendor in Lafayette, but the event had outgrown the facility, spilling over into two buildings and into the parking lot.
“It felt like a fragmented exposition, disconnected,” he said.
Couvillon also said the lower volume of hotel rooms in Lafayette posed a problem for companies that brought several people. That, he said, is not an issue in New Orleans.
“It’s incumbent on the show to bring in international buyers,” said Steve Maley of Lafayette-based Badger Oil. He chaired LAGCOE 2015, and said that initially he was surprised that the show moved to New Orleans.
“It’s a wonderful facility,” he said, standing on the Morial Center floor. He said he attends industry shows in Houston and the facilities in New Orleans are as good or better.
By moving to New Orleans, he said, LAGCOE may attract more midstream companies and those who are working with liquefied natural gas.
Wednesday’s opening breakfast session in an upstairs room concluded with a “second line” march to the LAGCOE exposition hall downstairs.
“Music is good for the soul, and gets people in the right frame of mind,” Cring said.
Two themes explored at the breakfast session — Kimberly McHugh, vice president of drilling and completions for Chevron, was the speaker — were addressed on the exposition floor. One was attracting and retaining more women in oil and gas. The other was training young people for myriad roles in the industry.
Kimberly Billeaudeau, director of career services at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said UL is continuing its longtime role at LAGCOE, where campus representatives provide information about relevant degree programs and students participate in leading tours.
She said the UL delegation included representatives from engineering but also from other academic fields that provide oilfield employees, including computer science and business.
Also on hand: The Women’s Energy Network, which partnered with LAGCOE to show women in the industry how they could network and improve their own professional development.
Some vendors suggested that another new practice, charging admission to attend the show, would also prove helpful to them. Charging admission, they said, would limit the show to people who were interested in doing business, not simply passing the time.
Keith Jinkins of Eventure in Houston said charging for entry “weeds out people who are just looking for freebies” in the exhibition hall. “We’ve seen really good customers here.”
Within the first hours of the show, he said, he’d given quotes to a representative of a “major industry oil company” for a sale that could be in the range of $300,000 to $500,000. That alone, he said, would more than pay for his company’s time and efforts at LAGCOE.
Stacy Schmidt, vice president of marketing for D&L Oil Tools, said she was happy just to have a place to show her company’s products. She said she spent years for an open spot for a booth on the LAGCOE waiting list.
New Orleans, she said, may be a lure to many vendors, but she said she was just happy just to be inside the show.
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