Hurricane Katrina Impacts Industry

Hurricane Katrina, by far the largest natural disaster to strike the United States in memory, is making its impact felt on our industry. As the full scale of the devastation sets in, it is starting to be possible to get some perspective.

Binswanger Glass Co., which has 126 locations in 21 states with most of them located in the South, had a distribution center in New Orleans. According to a spokesman for the company, it still had not been able to locate nine of its employees from that facility.

Asked if the company had seen a spike in business or shifted any employees around as a result of the storm, he pointed out that, in the flooded areas, water damage is the big problem and that the cars probably would be totaled anyway. So far, he said the company had not really seen any increase in business due to the storm but that it was still too early to tell in many of the areas as they were dealing with other issues than auto glass replacement or repair.

Roy Sherman, president of S&S Glass Service Inc. in Jonesboro, Ark., said that he hadn't seen much impact yet either. "We put in a couple of windshields for some people from Jackson, Miss., who had come up here because they had family here, but that's been it so far. However, I'm sure we will see some because about a thousand people are going to be relocated here," he stated.

Sherman said that his company does some wholesale business as well and has not seen any change in that due to the storm. "The gas prices are affecting it though," he added.

In Meridian, Miss., which saw significant storm damage, the Novus Windshield Repair & Replacement Service there reported a big jump in business as residents start cleaning up from the storm. A busy technician who answered the phone said that the company had been without power for three days after Katrina came through, but has been extremely busy since it got back up operating.

A number of industry companies have set up relief funds or efforts to help those impacted by the storm. The Texas Glass Association has done so also.

It seems that everyone wants to do their part to help. One North Carolina glass shop owner offered to lend his technicians to any shop that had been impacted by the storm. He said that his Florida shop had been through a hurricane so he understood how those affected felt.

Chuck Sulkala, executive director of the National Auto Body Council (NABC), reports that NABC will spearhead a united industry effort to relocate anyone in the collision industry who has either been displaced or who now finds that he or she doesn't have a job.

"It's important to note that the objective is not simply moving people from one location to another," he stated. "The goal is to help our people with no home or job to start rebuilding their lives, to get back to functioning as families, with a job, basic work tools, housing, transportation and kids back in school."

No reproduction, in print, electronic or any form without the expressed written permission of
Key Communications Inc. 540-720-5584.