While it's too early to determine the full extent of Hurricane Katrina's long-term impact on the building industry, materials costs, and the overall economy, it's clear that the immense toll it has taken on the people who live and work in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama has been immediate and catastrophic. In the wake of the tragedy, however, the outpouring of local-level support for the victims of the storm has been a glimmer of hope.
The latest statistics compiled by the Associated Press (AP) as of September 10 reported that within the 90,000 square miles affected by the storm an estimated 293,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and the federal government is spending in excess of $1 billion per day on the relief effort. That's the big picture, but I think that the individual assistance efforts of each and every person and company across the nation are just as important to recognize. Those who reach out to provide assistance now and pledge to help rebuild the lives, homes, communities, and businesses of those in need in the months and years to come are unsung heroes in most cases, but they are the role models that we need to recognize and follow. It is their inspiration that can get others involved to continue to fund the long-term relief efforts both through manpower and donations.
Within the construction supply industry alone, countless companies and their employees have been working behind the scenes to do as much as possible to help. As just one example, I'd like to share with you the story of the Southern Pine Council (SPC), based in Kenner, La., a town approximately 8–10 miles west of New Orleans that was directly hit by Katrina. The organization's 18 employees all followed the mandatory evacuation order, and members immediately stepped up to help house those in need and provide temporary working space. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the president of one of those companies, Joe Elder of Elder Wood Preserving in Mansura, La., which is located about 100 miles northwest of New Orleans. He loaned his guest house to the SPC's immediate past president, one of its directors, and their families and set up temporary offices at his company for them to use. He told me that he didn't want to be singled out because everyone in his community and the industry was assisting the relief effort in similar ways. “We have no choice but to help; it's the right thing to do,” he told me. “It brings us all together and we are trying to make the best of it.”
Many dealers across the country feel the same way as Elder, according to Shawn Conrad, president of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA). Yards have been contacting the association regularly to offer charitable donations of materials and to offer to provide temporary jobs to employees who currently do not have work. “The rebuilding of the areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina is going to take a massive effort by all,” he told me. “Dealers have always responded to the needs of those displaced and this cause will see them come together to channel resources, time, and manpower to assist in the rebuilding effort across the Gulf Coast.”
Along those lines, NLBMDA currently is exploring a proposal to develop an industry-wide campaign in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity to accept materials donations and to build homes in kits outside of the Gulf Coast area. Lumber dealers would stage the kits at their yards and then ship them to locations in the Gulf Coast where Habitat volunteers would assemble them.
PROSALES will be doing its part to help assist in and promote these efforts through NLBMDA, and I hope that your company will do the same by contacting NLBMDA at 800.634.8645. In the end, it's the individuals that put the strength in numbers.