June 1 was supposed to have been a good day at R&D Enterprises of Louisiana, the family oil-field service business Dan Ness and Leslie Bertucci founded eight years ago in their home on Hesper Avenue in Metairie.
After nearly a decade of steady growth providing specialized tanks and storage racks to offshore rigs, R&D was ramped up to meet a surge of orders that promised to double the company’s annual revenue.
And then the roof fell in.
The Obama administration’s May 27 order halting deepwater drilling in the Gulf after the BP oil spill slashed virtually all of R&D’s revenue overnight, said Bertucci, the company’s chief financial officer.
Now, instead of managing growth, Bertucci and Ness are nursing a company in intensive care.
Bertucci declines to disclose company revenue, but said the moratorium has cut R&D’s income by 80 percent.
She and Ness have slashed their own salaries by 75 percent, hoping to keep their small workforce of about a dozen employees intact.
So far, they haven’t laid anyone off.
But in the fourth month of the moratorium, R&D’s yard near the Harvey Canal is backed up with idled equipment.
These days, Bertucci said, R&D’s workers spend their days lavishing extra maintenance on the big red tanks and heavy gray racks that Ness designed and founded the company to lease.
“It’s mind-boggling for me to see it all out there,” Bertucci said. “Our goal in life is to have no equipment in the yard, because if there’s equipment in the yard, it’s not earning money.”
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