Impact of Gulf oil spill felt in Albany

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- On April 20, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded. Since then, thousands of gallons of oil have been gushing into the water -- having a direct impact on various industries.

The pains are being felt within Albany's economy, namely the area's seafood restaurants.

"Events such as these really demonstrate the supply chain and how interconnected the different segments of the economy are," Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission Spokeswoman Barbara Rivera Holmes said.

Austin Newman, owner of Austin's BBQ & Oyster Bar on Meredyth Drive, said that he may find himself unable to provide oysters in the next week or two.

"It will affect me tremendously," he said. "I'm not going to have any oysters. The good thing is that I can do other things; we'll just have to get creative."

The increased demand caused by seafood shortages could eventually result in prices doubling for oysters, and jumping by 20 percent for shrimp, Newman said.

Red Lobster, located on North Slappey Boulevard, will also feel the impact -- but not quite to the same degree.

"We have a diverse supply of seafood, so we've got to go to a lot of different places," General Manager Jason Moore said. "It does affect us, but there are other places we can tap from.

"We are supplied with such a large amount of seafood that we can't get it from one place."

Crawfish and red snapper are the types of fish the restaurant gets from the region, Moore said.

"The bulk of our stuff comes from Maine and Alaska," he said.

The overall impact is still yet to be seen, Moore said.

"It's a huge catastrophe," he said. "There a ton of families in that area that make a living out of this. This is so much more broad than seafood and fish."

Another industry the oil spill does have the potential to impact is retail gasoline, although it may be too early to see what that entails.

"I don't think there has been a tremendous impact," said Wright Woodall, owner of Woodall's. "A lot of it depends on what they do with the cleanup. The impact could be spread out over weeks or months."

As for the recent increase in price, Woodall said that is more likely due to the time of year.

"It tends to be on the higher side this time of year," he said. "It's hard to tell if (the oil spill has had) a lot of influence."

In Albany, prices increased from $2.69 Sunday to $2.83 Monday. The AAA Fuel Gauge had the average price for regular unleaded at $2.75 for the Albany area on Monday, a 5-cent jump from a week ago.

The Georgia average was at $2.80, 5 cents higher than a week ago. The national average was at $2.90, compared to $2.88 the day before and $2.85 a week ago.

A representative who answered the phone at Lanier Oil told a Herald reporter Monday that nobody was available to comment on how the recent oil spill was impacting them.

As the mess in the Gulf has continued to balloon toward the coast, officials have also had to face the real possibility that tourism in the region could be compromised as people choose to spend their vacation further inland.

That impact has yet to be seen in Southwest Georgia.

"We haven't seen any impact," said Lisa Riddle, director of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We are not close enough to notice it."

The transportation and trucking industries may not see much from it either.

"It doesn't really affect us," said Anne Wiggins, assistant to Fred Taylor, owner of Fred Taylor Company. "There has not been an impact that I have heard of."

A representative who answered the phone at Trans Power said a comment would not be available from officials Monday.

Obama administration officials were set to meet Monday with BP executives to press the company on how they will cover costs relating to the spill's cleanup. Some 210,000 galloons of crude oil a day are estimated to be spilling into the Gulf.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.