Shell Oil Returns to New Orleans Amid Housing Worries

Shell Oil returns to Lafayette Square in New Orleans. Along with Shell, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin provide more than 10,000 jobs for area residents. Many evacuees are returning to their jobs, but city officials wonder where the employees are going to live.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

In New Orleans this morning, people filming with their cell phones could capture some Zydeco music. It's part of the celebration of the return of a New Orleans employer, Shell Oil.

Mark Drennan leads the regional economic development agency.

Mr. MARK DRENNAN (Chief Executive, Greater New Orleans, Inc.): They had a thousand employees working pre-Katrina. All those employees are coming back in two shifts. Basically, 250 of them will be coming back in the next month, and then the other 750, the month after that.

INSKEEP: Along with Shell, Northrup Grummon and Lockheed Martin provide more than 10,000 jobs for area residents. Drennan says the next question is where all those employees are going to live.

Mr. DRENNAN: Housing is our biggest problem. Most of the areas that were flooded are the residential areas.

INSKEEP: And while people wait for insurance payments or word from FEMA on regulations for rebuilding, they've got to find someplace to stay outside the city.

Mr. DRENNAN: So, every morning there is a huge traffic jam going into New Orleans, and there's, at 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, a big traffic jam leaving. We were not a commuter city. We do not have mass transit like some of the bigger cities have, so it's become a whole different environment.

INSKEEP: It's an environment where many residents still do not know when or how they can come home. For New Orleans officials, the return of an oil company, Shell, gives them a chance to talk about who's staying, and to express hope that the city is coming back.

By the way, MORNING EDITION's Renee Montagne is in New Orleans this week, and we'll be hearing her reports later in the week.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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