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Is disaster recovery keeping contractors afloat?

flooding

Photo by Flickr user U.S. Geological Survey

Nature has wrought havoc throughout the United States and beyond the past few years, with seemingly no end in sight to the floods, fires, storms and drought that have ravaged so many states.

Aid to damaged areas is tapping out federal agencies in an already cash-strapped economic era, as we see this week with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) caught up as something of a pawn in Congress’ funding showdown ahead of Friday’s looming ‘government shutdown’ deadline.

Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post writes that some $447 million in projects are jeopardized by the FEMA funding limbo, in some 42 states.   And while late-day reports Monday said FEMA will be able to stretch its money through the end of the week, it got me to wondering about the contractors and materials providers who probably are depending on disaster recovery jobs to fill the void created as home building withered.

I think some business profiles about keeping afloat in hard times by jumping on opportunity created by even tougher times could make for some poignant, pithy and ironic stories about the nature of an economic crisis and what happens when it (and it’s ‘victims’) intersect with natural disaster.

To find companies that might be getting extra business from flood remediation in the east or rebuilding farm fences in Texas or other recovery tasks, you can check out the federal Central Contractor Registration.  A variety of search parameters are available; as an experiment I ticked off “disaster response contractor” and selected New York under the Advanced Search menu.  You also can search down to the city level if you like.

I got nearly 500 hits – some made sense as disaster contractors, like excavators — others seemed a little obscure, like training companies, law firms and a cycle shop.  Click for more detail and you get registration info and even a link to the firm’s website.  It’s a handy way to start mining the small- and medium-sized business in your community for those hanging on by — and through – hard times.  Unfortunately I didn’t see a link to contracts but you could always run likely names through USASpending.gov to see if anything pops up — and of course, ask the company.

And if you don’t think your state has any ongoing disaster aid happening, think again.  FEMA has an interesting interactive map and a chart showing disaster declarations by state — with great historical info available too, if you want to tote up you region’s bad luck going back quite a few years.   Texas and California top the list, which makes sense given their land mass – but Oklahoma as #3 and Kentucky as #7 surprised me.  Check it out to see where your state ranks.  And check out the FEMA press release page; it’s a treasure trove of interesting information about disaster assistance offices, activity and consumer tips about grants and other aid.

And depending on your region’s industry and geography, check with other state and federal agencies about recovery programs that may trickle down to jobs and contracts for builders and other firms.

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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