April 1, 2023

For Builders, the Storm Is Good for Business

Two days into the destruction from Hurricane Sandy, phones were ringing nonstop at Garden State Public Adjusters in Marlton, N.J., ProStar Residential Disaster Cleanup in Milford, Conn., and other businesses along the Eastern Seaboard. Construction crews cannot get into many of the affected areas yet, because of flooded streets, detours and debris. Even so, customers were lining up, begging for help to pluck branches out of windows, suck water from basements and living rooms, and rebuild damaged roofs and homes.

It is an exercise many contractors had been through before.

“I always look forward to a natural disaster,” said Doug Palmieri, owner of Palmieri Construction in Middlefield, Conn. “The last two storms we had around here, the snow we had included, helped out the contracting business quite a bit.”

Construction companies and insurance adjusters that are newer or less known have begun circling waterlogged neighborhoods in their cars and trucks and distributing fliers, handshakes and condolences.

“I drove around with my truck and a couple people stopped me and asked me for a business card,” said Mayara Goncalves, owner of Queiroga Construction in Bridgeport, Conn. “Unfortunately for everyone else, it’s going to be good for us.”

The five-person Queiroga Construction is hoping to meet demand with longer hours and subcontractors. Many construction companies along the East Coast, though, say they expect to hire, although the magnitude of the work and the number of additional laborers are still to be determined.

“There is going to be so much manpower required, and we are already spread so thin,” said Bill O’Connell, president of Elite Public Adjusters, which runs both an insurance adjustment company and a restoration and construction business in North Wildwood, N.J. He expects at least a million dollars of work from this storm. “I’m a little worried about being overwhelmed. The phones are ringing off the hook and we won’t be able to get to a lot of people.”

Some companies expressed concern about finding enough workers quickly, given that the slowdown in construction over the last few years has caused workers to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

“Over the course of the recession, 60 to 75 percent of construction workers left the area because there was no work to keep them busy,” said Pat Broom, owner of Phoenix Restoration, a 15-year-old company in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., on the Outer Banks. “That’s the first thing we worried about this morning when we got in: Where do we get the people?”

Even in areas where people are desperate for work, some companies say they have trouble finding workers with the skills and motivation for hard physical labor.

“The challenge is going to be finding help,” said John Scotti of Scotti Brothers Custom Home Renovation in Cumberland County, N.J. “The phone doesn’t stop ringing with people looking for jobs, and then you bring them in and they don’t want to work. The only ones that want to work are those who are here illegally.”

Businesses are hoping that the burst of construction work will draw back workers to their areas. Last year, the rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Irene attracted construction workers and insurance adjusters from as far away as Texas.

So far, though, companies said they have been inundated with more calls for work than job applicants. Some expect workers to start flowing into affected areas later this week when transportation returns to normal.

While some pleas for service are coming in steadily and urgently, it will probably take awhile for the bulk of the construction jobs to get going in earnest.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/business/builders-seize-the-silver-lining.html?partner=rss&emc=rss