Tuesday, 31 January 2006 17:00

Despite hardships, Gulf coast planting seeds of recovery

Written by Karyn Hendricks
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There is good news and bad news coming from hurricane-ravaged New Orleans. The good news - many shops are getting back to business and technicians are in huge demand.
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Pike's Collision Center, owned by Mike Pike, in Slidell, Louisiana, on the north shore of Lake Ponchatrain sustained damage outside.
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In spite of extensive damage to the shop, CarCraft is back in business, although with a smaller staff.
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The interior of CarCrafters' facility sustained significant damage, but the company is back in business.


The bad news - there is no place to live. The hotels that are open are filled with FEMA, clean up crews, and construction workers. Rentals are maxed out and there are no houses for sale. Displaced people from places that were completely destroyed have moved to the outskirts of town, suburbs or other cities altogether.

Calvin Schank, owner of Car Craft, is driving 75 miles a day to get to his shop in St. Bernard's Parrish, most of which is irreparable. Once he gets there he has 11 employees, down from fifty before the storm, and customers are waiting in line to get their cars repaired. His loyal clientele are willing to take their turns to have their vehicles repaired by Car Craft. Seven families reside in FEMA trailers in the shop's parking lot, but others are still unable to find housing to return to work.

The situation regarding services is dire as well. Some places still have no electricity or telephones. Business is transacted via cell phone and internet. Few restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, or department stores are operating. Roads are clogged with debris and workers trying to clear it. This causes horrible traffic jams and getting around is slow and cumbersome.

Steven Bohte, Mike and Jerry's Paint and Supply, has a unique view of the shops' dilemma as he knows practically everyone in town through his business as a supplier. Once he was able, he inventoried several of the shops and gave them estimates so they could get small business loans or other aid. Unfortunately, many of the facilities were underinsured which only made reopening all the more difficult.

Aid to the area was slow in coming from the government, but Schank was quick to praise his colleagues in the collision repair business. The Collision Industry Relief Fund is acting one-on-one to help technicians get back on their feet, with housing, furniture, clothing, tools - almost anything a family needs to get back on its feet. Jordan Hendler, NABC, spearheaded a "virtual baby shower" soliciting every item and more that the Doug Reed family needed to prepare for the birth of their baby girl in December. (ABN, October 2005) Visit www.collisionindustryrelief.com or call 888-66-PRIDE (888-667-7433).

Technicians have been particularly grateful to Tools for Techs, which has been collecting used tools and equipment from shops around the country and disbursing them to workers so they can get back on the job. Many of Schank's employees are back to work due to this effort by Todd Hoffman and his team. To contribute tools, please visit www.toolsfortechs.com or call (713) 553-6279.

At the end of the day, as you sit in your office winding down, look around and imagine that everything you see can be gone in a heartbeat. Please continue the industry's generosity.

There are thousands of stories in the Crescent City. More will be heard in the coming months.


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