Cleanup Businesses to Boom in Katrina's Wake Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina raked the Gulf Coast, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour declares his state "open for business." Some beachfront areas still look like battle zones, but a short distance inland, businesses are starting to come back to life -- especially those in the cleanup and repair industry.
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Cleanup Businesses to Boom in Katrina's Wake

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Cleanup Businesses to Boom in Katrina's Wake

Cleanup Businesses to Boom in Katrina's Wake

Cleanup Businesses to Boom in Katrina's Wake

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4841883/4841884" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina raked the Gulf Coast, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour declares his state "open for business." Some beachfront areas still look like battle zones, but a short distance inland, businesses are starting to come back to life — especially those in the cleanup and repair industry.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Time now for business news. Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, businesses in Mississippi are starting to come back, especially those in the cleanup and repair business. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY reporting:

Hurricane Katrina left a lot of soggy carpets in its wake, and for Travis Stallworth, that means more work than he knows what to do with.

Mr. TRAVIS STALLWORTH (Stallworth Carpet): I'm in the carpet business, Stallworth Carpet, and I don't know where we're going to get enough installers. I've got about six, and I know from Camille and some of the other hurricanes, that ain't going to be enough.

HORSLEY: Stallworth plans to reopen his shop in Pascagoula, Mississippi, just as soon as the power's back on. He's already bracing for a flood of customers in need of estimates for their insurance carriers. Stallworth's own home needs more than new carpet. It was in what he calls disaster area one, about a block off the beach in Pascagoula. The storm surge from Katrina gutted his bottom floor.

Mr. STALLWORTH: We're getting ready to buy a trailer, because I figure it's going to take two years before we'll be able to build a house back. And I'm staying with my mother-in-law now, and she's a sweet lady, but we need some space.

HORSLEY: Stallworth was shopping for new shelter at Affordable Mobile Homes, but it'll be at least a couple of weeks before he gets one. Salesman Blake Bagwell(PH) says the company is selling trailers just as fast as it can find them.

Mr. BLAKE BAGWELL (Salesman): With FEMA buying up so many homes, we're taking deposits on what we're going to have come on the lot and what we have ordered, and they're going to be affordable because we know most of these homes aren't permanent, like Mr. Stallworth's house isn't going to be permanent. It's just something he's got to lay his head in every night and keep a roof over his head.

HORSLEY: People whose homes are still standing are flocking to buy cleanup supplies. Larry Shackford(PH) works at a Lowe's home improvement store, which is doing a brisk business, despite curfew shortened hours.

Mr. LARRY SHACKFORD (Lowe's Home Improvement): There's a lot of people coming in, buying wheelbarrows and refrigerators. A lot of appliances have been sold. A lot of washers and dryers have been sold. Been loading it ever since last Sunday.

HORSLEY: Opening has meant improvising for some local businesses. Without clean tap water, for example, some fast-food restaurants are serving soft drinks in aluminum cans. About 10 percent of Mississippi's customers are still without power. That's created a big demand for generators. Bill Stevens(PH) works for a North Carolina-based company supplying backup generators for cell phone towers. He and his crew have been eating and sleeping in the parking lot of a deserted strip mall. Stevens figures they'll be here for two to three more weeks.

Mr. BILL STEVENS (North Carolina): See all these truck seats? They're well-used. They're well-used. I've been in my truck seat for 14 days now.

HORSLEY: Housing, feeding and even bathing the army of contractors who arrived to clean up after Katrina creates business of its own. Hotels are booked up far into the future, and a Colorado company even hauled in a set of mobile showers on a tractor-trailer, offering hot water, clean towels and a reminder of life before the storm. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Biloxi, Mississippi.

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