Industry leaders say labor situation is critical for plants

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 25, 2007


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – At first listen, some parents may not be very happy to hear what Dupont Plant Manager Guy Tenini is saying to students today.

Tenini, one of the spokesmen for the St. John Parish Industrial Group, has a simple message:

&#8220Don’t go to college!”

OK, maybe he isn’t exactly saying that, but Tenini is just one of the plant managers for some of the major industry in the region who is trying to let students know that they don’t all have to go to college to get a good paying job.

For that matter, plants such as Dupont and Marathon are hoping more students will elect to go to the Technical College in Reserve, where a two-year training will get them a very good job at some of the major industries in the area, paying between $50,000 and $100,000, according to Tenini.

The Dupont manager echoed the comments from Marathon Plant Manager Rich Bedell recently as he pointed out a critical situation looming in the future for some of the industry here.

&#8220First of all, we have expansions going on at several of the plants, and that is obviously opening up more jobs,” Tenini explained. &#8220But beyond that, we have a large number of workers who began at the plants when they opened 30 years ago, and they will be retiring in the next three to five years. Overall, we see a need for as many as 5,000 new employees over the next five years.”

Some of this information was brought out at the annual meeting of area industry that was held in LaPlace, where groups such as Bayou Steel, degussa, DuPont Performance Elastomers, Nalco Company, DPC Enterprises, L.P., DuPont, Marathon Petroleum Company and Tomah Reserve, Inc., all come together to give a &#8220state of the industry” report.

&#8220The good news that we have to report to people in this area is that we have a lot of job opportunities, with most operators starting at $30 an hour. Then, as I said, they can make between $50,000 and $100,000 by sticking with that company over the years,” he said.

To get most of those jobs, a two-year technology degree is needed from a tech college like the one in Reserve. However Tenini reported that even the local college needs some state funding to expand, so they can take more students.

&#8220Aside from the emissions situation here, we know that neighbors in the area are very interested in jobs for their kids in St. John. Well, we’re here to tell you that we have them, and they are very good jobs,” he said.

The annual report on emissions is a good one, Tenini added.

&#8220When you add total emissions from all the plants together, we are now producing half of what it was in 1987, thanks to so much improved technology,” he said. &#8220With all the expansions, we know that some emissions will go up, but places like Marathon are putting in the most environmentally friendly equipment they can.”

Even at DuPont, he said the land around their plant has been kept in such good condition that they just got certified as a wildlife habitat.

&#8220One other thing that so many people believe around here is that our cancer rate is high because of the industry. But we have some studies from scientists which show that the cancer rate here is no different than anywhere else. The study said that some of the cancer incidence here is really related to lifestyle and lack of medical attention,” he noted.

&#8220We all have very high environmental principals, and it is always about reducing emissions,” Tenini remarked. &#8220Even with the DuPont expansion, you have to realize we are increasing our capacity here, but that is because we are shutting down an entire plant in Tennessee to do that.”