“Shell is deeply invested in the communities where we operate,” says Nina Arvanitidis, External Relations Manager, Gulf of Mexico. “After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, few thought that Jazz Fest would be possible in 2006.
The event generates over $300 million in economic value to the city and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the country and the rest of the world. An appeal was made to Shell to further demonstrate our tremendous commitment to New Orleans and we were able to step up and become the first ever presenting sponsor of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.”
A young Louis Armstrong was playing jazz in the Storyville nightclubs when the New Orleans Refining Company purchased a few hundred acres of sugar cane fields just 20 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
The year was 1916, and the town that grew around the refinery took its name from the initials of the company: Norco. In 1929, Shell acquired the Norco refinery, beginning its downstream presence in Louisiana.
20 years later, as the great boogie-woogie piano player Professor Longhair was recording the classic “Mardi Gras in New Orleans”, Shell began to see results from offshore exploration, completing wells at a location south of the Mississippi Delta in the Gulf of Mexico.
By the 1960s, geologists and geophysicists in Shell’s New Orleans office were using new seismic digital data to uncover opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico. That led, in 1978, to first production at the Cognac field. At 1,025 feet, Cognac was the deepest offshore discovery at that time, and helped transform the industry. From Upstream to Downstream in Louisiana, Shell was making history, and taking root in the community.
The good times roll….and almost stop
By then, a new tradition was taking place, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, or “Jazz Fest”, born in 1970. City leaders had been looking for years to create an event to celebrate the city’s musical legacy, and shine a light on the unique culture of New Orleans.
The festival grew in popularity until one of the world’s worst natural disasters almost brought it to a halt. Hurricane Katrina caused massive damage across the Gulf Coast and New Orleans was hit particularly hard. As citizens of the city began to pick up the pieces, there were fears that Shell might leave New Orleans.
But after a long history in the state and the city, Shell would not pull up those deep roots.
“We are people with beating hearts, and have and will continue to reach out to others,” wrote Frank Glaviano at that time. He was then the Vice President, Production for the Americas. “New Orleans is our partner and you don’t abandon a partner after 50 years.”
Shell’s decision to stay in New Orleans was followed by our decision to become the first-ever Presenting Sponsor for Jazz Fest. That was another major step in the economic and cultural recovery for New Orleans after Katrina.
Making new history
The all-star lineup for Jazz Fest, beginning April 22, includes artists from Stevie Wonder to Pearl Jam to Elvis Costello. When that music stops, however, the commitment of Shell to its Louisiana neighbors will continue. For Shell, Louisiana isn’t just a place to do business. It is home.
“We are proud of our long history in Louisiana and that our company and its employees were able to play a role in helping the city of New Orleans during a time of grave uncertainty,” says Nina.
“Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico are a true heartland for Shell; several of our businesses have flourished here. Our continued involvement with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is one way we honor the place we call home.”