Loss of jobs at Cameron Vicksburg difficult blow to our community, beyond

Published 11:54 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

It’s unfortunate when anyone loses a job. It’s such a shame when 222 or so jobs are lost at a facility that has been an important part of our community for many years.

The effect of the pending layoffs at Vicksburg’s Cameron International plant will be felt much further than Vicksburg. Employees at the plant come from all over the region, including Claiborne and Jefferson counties.

While we are all enjoying the lowest gas prices in 11 years, remember those come at a steep cost for some. The U.S. oil industry is suffering greatly. And the oil business is important to many Vicksburg businesses. The Golding family and the Smith family haul petroleum. Cam2 blends petroleum at the Vicksburg port. Many others, like Allrig, which will close its operation here in just a few weeks, service the oil industry.

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Cameron International has been a fixture in Vicksburg since the 1940s. Long before it was Cameron International, the Vicksburg facility was known as LeTourneau, founded by Robert Gilmour LeTourneau, who later moved his business to Longview, Texas. The plant here started out between 1942 and 1944 as a manufacturer of earthmoving equipment and oilrig equipment. LeTourneau is credited with designing the first offshore drilling rig ever built, and did so without any formal plans or drawings.

Later, in Longview, LeTourneau would found LeTourneau University.

The business had been sold several times before Cameron bought it in 2001.

These jobs are good ones and we’ll miss them. They will be difficult to replace. But now more than ever, we need to step up economic development efforts. We encourage the Vicksburg Warren County Port Commission, which provides economic development services work for our area, to work its plan for recruiting job creators diligently.

Vicksburg is an amazing community and has much to offer families who are make their homes here — good schools, neighborhoods, shopping, health care and transportation. Regardless of the oil industry slump, we will continue to thrive because of these things.

And we hope it isn’t long before the U.S. oil industry sees better times.