The Chevron Corporation's new aircraft operations headquarters is up and running in Picayune.
Chevron-Texaco moved its maintenance operation out of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport where it had been for 56 years to get away from the constant threat of flooding whenever a tropical storm came that way. Picayune city leaders say the operation will mean big things for Picayune and Pearl River County.
Chevron's fleet of 31 helicopters will be inspected and repaired inside a 38,000-square-foot hanger.
"Today is a big day for us to hopefully start economic development in a big way," Picayune Mayor Greg Mitchell said. "Everything has to have a beginning, and what a beginning with someone like Chevron."
Chevron's helicopters will rotate in and out every three months. At any given time, three to five will be there.
The helicopters that will be repaired here are used to transport workers and equipment to and from off-shore oil rigs. The entire maintenance operation employs more than 160 pilots and aviation mechanics. Seventy of them work out of the new Picayune facility.
City leaders say high-tech jobs with high-tech wages can only help the county's economy, and they say employees like aviation mechanic Marc Lester who moved his family here will boost the city's tax base.
"We looked around real hard and debated whether or not to stay in Louisiana and commute or move, and it looked like it would be more beneficial for me to be able to work right by the house," Lester said.
"With a company of the caliber of Chevron-Texaco, it can't do anything but convince others that this is a good area to located in," former Picayune Mayor Woody Spiers said.
The facility officially opened for chopper repairs in May.
By Al Showers