Gulf Coast opportunities

January 2006 » Editor's Comment
Certainly, our hearts go out to the many people who lost their lives, their friends, their homes, or their businesses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Certainly, our hearts go out to the many people who lost their lives, their friends, their homes, or their businesses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

But now that clean-up and demolition efforts are underway and plans are in motion for rebuilding, it's time to address how your firm can assist in the recovery.

According to the newly released 2006 AEC Industry Outlook: Strategy and Insight for Design & Construction Firms, published by ZweigWhite, there are many available opportunities. (Most of the information provided below is summarized from this report.) For example, federal officials pledged to rebid $1.5 billion in contracts related to disaster relief and reconstruction to increase participation by small businesses and regional companies. The administration opened the Hurricane Contracting Information Center to assist small and minority businesses and launched a website (www.rebuildingthegulfcoast.gov) to provide information about contracts and to allow firms to register with government agencies.

Additionally, FEMA encourages businesses to register with the National Emergency Resource Registry at www.nerr.gov. It reports that small businesses account for 72 percent of contract dollars for Katrina recovery efforts. Continue checking www.fedbizopps.gov to keep abreast of contracting opportunities! For all size firms, it is important to understand the priorities of the region. Energy and transportation sectors are expected to be among the first types of projects to move ahead.

In Mississippi, casinos and hotels are going to be on the fast track. Additionally, highway and bridge needs are going to garner attention early on in the process. Obviously, rebuilding and strengthening levees around New Orleans will be a major goal.

I imagine that coastal preservation likely will ramp up as well. Having experienced critical shoreline loss - at a rate of roughly three football fields per day in some areas - the natural resources of this region need to be protected to sustain important ecosystems and economic resources. This month's article, “Coastline challenges,” highlights two projects.

In regard to New Orleans, debate surrounds rebuilding parts of the city, so the prospects are uncertain. However, other areas are feeling a strain on their infrastructure since people from New Orleans flocked to nearby cities in Louisiana and Texas. For example, Baton Rouge has doubled in population following the storm. Civil engineering firms that can help these communities meet new needs will do well.

Additionally, there may be impacts nationwide from the hurricanes. The 2005 storms' destruction underscored the vulnerability of certain parts of the country and may lead to increased funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' civil works budget. Stronger building codes in areas affected by hurricanes also are likely.

Gulf Coast reconstruction is by no means the only promising market on the horizon for 2006. Check out this month's article, “Prospects for civil engineering firms: Economic outlook for 2006,” to learn what experts predict for the coming year. I hope it proves to be a prosperous one for your business!

Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.
sfauerbach@zweigwhite.com

P.S. The entry information for the Best Engineering Firm To Work For Contests is now available at www.cenews.com/bestfirm.htm. The deadline is April 21, 2006.


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