St. John company honored by U.S. Commerce Secretary

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – Industry in the River Parishes continues to boom as another St. John business is set to receive national recognition.

In a ceremony held Tuesday in the Rose Garden of the White House, representatives from Dredging Supply Company of Reserve accepted the “E” Award for excellence in exporting, and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez was in the area Monday to discuss the prestigious award with employees and corporate officials.

In a brief speech to about 100 employees in attendance, Gutierrez addressed some of the many accolades that make Dredging Supply Company worthy of the “E” Award. He said exports represent about 12 percent of the total U.S. economy, and said Dredging Supply Company, which has seen an increase of $4 million in exports over the last four years, is ahead of the curve.

“This is what the future is about,” said Gutierrez. “We have to really start looking outside the country for growth, and be competitive in the world market.

Gutierrez explained that one of Dredging Supply Company’s more recent large endeavors, the shipping of portable dredgers to the port of Cartagena in Columbia, is right in line with what the country is trying to accomplish with free trade throughout the world.

“Right at this moment, Congress is negotiating a free trade agreement with Columbia,” said Gutierrez. “It is vital to our economy to have more of these open markets globally. Companies like Dredging Supply are continuing to grow and flourish with outside trade.”

Prior to his speech, Gutierrez was treated to a guided tour of Dredging Supply’s facilities, and also had a chance to examine the portable dredger that will be sent to Columbia. He said he was impressed by the work that the small Reserve business is able to do.

“Seventy percent of all jobs in the U.S. are created by smaller businesses like this one,” said Gutierrez. “Our economy is more than just big business, and the proof is right here in Reserve.”

Bob Wetta, president of Dredging Supply Company said being recognized with the “E” award was beyond the wildest dreams of the company he, his dad, and his brother started in 1989. He said less than 1 percent of all U.S. companies have been recognized with this award.

“We have equipment placed on five different continents,” said Wetta. “It is nice to be recognized for the broad range of export work we do.”

After the speech, Gutierrez talked up the value of the port system in the region. He said the Louisiana coastlines are the envy of the world, and the U.S. should do everything it can to keep it that way.

“The Port of New Orleans is a real asset, and a big part of the economy,” said Gutierrez. “I think we need to double port capacity, and make needed improvements so it stays viable.”

Wetta said Dredging Supply does lots of work with the Port of New Orleans, and he hopes that trend continues. He said Dredging Supply was the recent low bid for a new dredger for the port.

“It has not been awarded yet, so we will see what happens with that,” said Wetta. “It would be a tremendous project for us if we could land that contract.