Company News

Laborde Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Crawfish Boil

Laborde Products Inc., the Covington, La.-based engine supplier and diesel pump and generator builder for the marine and industrial markets, celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this month with a classic South Louisiana crawfish boil. In just 20 years, Laborde Products has grown to become the largest distributor of Mitsubishi marine engines in North America, while also distributing Yanmar, FPT, Steyr and Hatz engines. The company also offers a line of custom-built diesel pumps, pressure washers and generator sets.

Customers, suppliers and Laborde Products team members gathered April 12 under a tent outside the company’s Louisiana headquarters to celebrate the occasion, which was highlighted by boiled crawfish, cake and traditional Cajun music. Addressing the crowd of friends and colleagues, Laborde Products President Brian Laborde said he remembers well the early days of the company that bears his family name.

“I can remember my dad coming home from work one day,” Brian Laborde recalled. “My brothers and I were in high school, and my dad said, “I’m going to buy an engine company.’”

Brian Laborde said the news caught the family off guard, since the family business prior had been in operating boats and not supplying components.

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That family legacy goes back to Brian Laborde’s great uncle, Alden “Doc” Laborde, a World War II veteran, who invented and built the first submersible drilling rig to serve Louisiana’s burgeoning oil and gas industry in 1954. That company became ODECO (Ocean Drilling & Exploration Company). Then in 1955, Laborde’s grandfather, John P. Laborde, also a World War II veteran, developed along with his brother, Doc, the world’s first offshore support vessel, which for the first time placed the wheelhouse at the front of the ship, with the cargo deck behind it. John Laborde went on to serve as chairman, CEO and president of Tidewater Marine Service.

Much later, in 1995, Brian Laborde’s father, Tracy, helped start Laborde Marine, a supply and crew boat operator. Three years later, though, Tracy Laborde left Laborde Marine and acquired Star Power Services, a Covington-based distributor of Yanmar engines. Speaking at the 20th anniversary celebration, Tracy Laborde said the move was family-inspired—he wanted to be able to spend more time at home with his family at the end of work days.

Brian Laborde said his father immediately used those connections he already had in the maritime industry to launch Laborde Products Inc.

“He had a vision that he was going to create a company that could service and support the industries we knew so well in the commercial marine markets,” Brian Laborde said. “His experience in the marine industry is ultimately what has created so much value in the company we have today.”

Today, Laborde Products has grown to also include a base of operations in Houston. Brian Laborde became president of Laborde Products in 2014. His brother, Trace, manages the company’s operations in Houston.

Brian Laborde, reflecting on the company’s 20 years in business, singled out three people who’ve left their mark on Laborde Products. The first, understandably, was his father, who established the values that still define the company.

“Twenty years ago, when my dad acquired this business, I don’t know that he had any idea of what it was going to become,” Brian Laborde said. “But he had an idea of how he was going to run the business, how he was going to treat people, and what he was going to do in a push-comes-to-shove situation. He’s always put the customer first. He’s always done everything he could to take care of a problem, get somebody back to work and always put the revenue of the customer ahead of the revenue of the company.

“That still is true today,” he added.

Brian Laborde also recognized Doug Oehrlein, who worked at Star Power Services when Tracy Laborde acquired the company. Oehrlein stayed on with Laborde Products, eventually becoming the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. He is now retired.

“Doug was here before my dad got here and, ultimately, every single deal they crossed, Doug was right in the middle of,” Brian Laborde said. “Doug was at the right hand of my dad throughout every single opportunity, every single transition, every single change that’s happened in this business. For 15 or 20 years in this business, he was right there. He really had the experience in the sales side of the business, and he was coaching Dad, making sure this company was making the right decisions to move forward.

“This company would not be anything compared to what we are today without Doug’s experience, without his business acumen, without his relationships in the industry that he built over so much time,” he continued.

Finally, Brian Laborde thanked Joe Manning, the founding general manager of Laborde Products’ operation in Houston. Manning built Laborde Products’ Houston branch from the ground up.

“It’s not often that you hire someone and you don’t have anything for them,” Brian Laborde said. “Joe joined the Laborde Products team, and there wasn’t a building, there wasn’t a customer, there wasn’t a whole lot of anything over in Houston. There was just Joe and his kitchen table.”

Brian Laborde praised Manning for dedicating himself to the success of the company from day one.

“From the very first day, he was totally committed to the success of this company and everyone involved in it,” Brian Laborde said. “The operation we developed in Houston—so many new relationships we’ve had, so many new businesses we’ve started in Joe’s tenure at this company are a testament to him and his family and the heritage he’s had. He truly left an impact on this business when he retired several years ago.”

Each of those three now-retired leaders helped grow a business and team of company leaders to take Laborde Products into the future, Brian Laborde said.

“We are what we are today because of the hard work these three men put into the company, along with the teams they worked with,” he said.

Brian Laborde also recognized his grandfather, John, who attended the crawfish boil along with the extended Laborde family, praising him as “a man who has not only changed industries but created industries.”

“He and his family have left an impact on this state and this country that could be rivaled by very few revolutionaries that have lived in this generation,” Brian Laborde said. “My grandfather is 94 years old and still coming to company crawfish boils to support his family. I think it’s pretty special.”

Brian Laborde thanked Laborde Products team members, engine manufacturers, business partners, financial backers and legal partners. The success of the company, he said, depends on each working together.

Finally, he thanked customers who have trusted and stood behind Laborde Products over the years.

“So many of you have taken a chance on Laborde Products when maybe there were those pushing back,” he said. “There’s always a bigger name out there, but you’ve taken a chance on us, you’ve given us an opportunity, and we’ve done everything in our power to try to support that decision and provide value for you and your business every single day.”

Below is a slideshow with more photos from the Laborde anniversary event. All photos are by Frank McCormack.

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Doug Oehrlein, retired Laborde vice president-sales and marketing, with Chas Haun, Parker Towing executive vice president.