Carlo Popolano stands outside his beachfront home, damaged in superstorm Sandy, in Coney Island's Sea Gate community in New York. He said 'everything was okay until about 7:30 and then one big wave came and washed away our whole backyard.'
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While Hurricane Sandy brought misery and destruction to much of the eastern seaboard, the superstorm’s aftermath is having a positive economic impact on some segments of the Toledo business community.
Businesses and workers involved in disaster cleanup, construction, and electrical work are in high demand in the East, and rebuilding areas of New Jersey, New York, and other states could provide badly need work for construction workers for the better part of a year.
“The U.S. has traditionally reinvested and rebuilt after devastating storms like this one. That does create jobs in a number of areas, including the before, during, and after portions of the storm,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based global outplacement firm.
“The before is retail, as people stocked up on emergency items they might not normally buy. During the storm, there’s jobs for police and fire, first responders, health-care workers,” Mr. Challenger said. “Then when the storm is over — where we are now — jobs in construction for road building and bridge rebuilding, track replacement for trains, will all be in demand. Some of those construction workers have had a hard time of it over the last few years and this will be a lot of work for them.”
The sheer amount of damage — and the expected need of materials required for rebuilding — sent the stocks of several “hurricane” stocks soaring on Wall Street.
Shares of Toledo-based Owens Corning rose $2.15, a gain of 6.8 percent, on Wednesday. It is one of the largest makers of roofing shingles, insulation, and other building products.
The company expressed concern and sympathy for those affected by the disaster, and said that “from a business point of view, it’s difficult to predict the impact” so early after a storm.
“Recovery from these disasters takes time, so it is not easy to quantify the immediate demand for our products, or any building materials,” OC spokesman Matt Schroder said in a statement. “As always, Owens Corning’s people will do all we can to make our products available to our customers whenever and wherever they are needed.”
Meanwhile, some Toledo firms are already at or headed to the hardest-hit areas to begin the cleanup process and help restore basic services, such as power and water.
U.S. Utility Contractor Co., a Lake Township-based electrical and telecommunications contractor, sent 63 workers and a fleet of cranes, aerial bucket trucks, and other heavy equipment, to New Jersey on Saturday. Owner Stan Chlebowski estimates the company’s workers could be there a month or more.
“We took every truck that we could spare and all the safety gear we could dig out, extra chain saws, and rain gear, ’cause they’re working in the rain. They didn’t have power for themselves in their motel room for over a day,” he said.
Phil LaCourse, president and assistant business manager of Local 245, Electrical Workers, said nearly 375 of his union members left for the East Coast to help with repairs, some leaving as early as last Thursday. About 100 workers employed by Toledo Edison left Tuesday.
Another 275 left earlier with eight northwest Ohio or Michigan contractors hired to help restore power. The contractors included Xtreme Power, S.P.E. Utility Contractors, U.S. Utility, Hydaker-Wheatlake, MJ Electric, JW Didado, and Overhead Lines.
“There is still one contractor leaving [today],” Mr. LaCourse said. “…Everybody who was here doing work for FirstEnergy (Corp.) or Toledo Edison work was released to go out there to assist with the repairs.”
An engineering crew from Walbridge general contractor Rudolph/Libbe Cos. Inc. and its sister company, GEM Inc., which specializes in electrical and mechanical work, left Wednesday for New Jersey to help a client who reached out to the firms via the Internet this week because his phone line was out, his cell phone was dead, and his manufacturing plant was flooded.
“We have a business relationship with this company and they’re located very close to the New Jersey shore. They have several feet of water in their building and local contractors are overwhelmed. He told us he didn’t know where else to turn,” said June Remley, a spokesman for Rudolph/Libbe.
FirstEnergy Corp. is among those Ohio companies who will be hurt severely by the storm. The utility, which owns Toledo Edison, also owns electric utilities in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. It still had nearly 2.2 million customers without power and restoration is going very slowly, spokesman Jennifer Young said Wednesday.
The utility’s Cleveland Electric Illuminating and Ohio Edison territories also got lashed by Sandy and knocked out power to 300,000 customers in northeast Ohio. About 155,000 were still without power Wednesday.
“There’s a huge restoration effort in progress. Folks from Toledo Edison have sent crews to Cleveland and further east to help with the restoration effort. And utilities outside of the state that we have agreements with are helping out, so we have lots of help,” Ms. Young said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6128.
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