Cleanup Cash Goes to Familiar Faces

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 12, 2005

The Coast Guard order came by cell phone -- no bids, no contract, no discussion of price, paperwork to follow. There was a single focus: Get fuel tanks and generators to New Orleans.

That call alone could mean perhaps a million dollars in business for Herndon-based Core Engineered Solutions Inc., a substantial amount for a 15-person firm that was expecting less than $10 million in revenue for the year.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, tens of billions of dollars will flow from the federal government to rebuild New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast. And while much will be spent in that region, focused on bread-and-butter services like general contracting and construction, Washington area firms with expertise in management, planning and computer networking are likely to find themselves deeply involved in the effort.

McLean-based BearingPoint Inc. has created an eight-person unit and 40-person task force to coordinate its efforts to win Katrina-related contracts. The consulting firm in the past has done work supervising networking and engineering projects for the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so it's familiar with the agency's personnel and processes.

Companies like Hydrogeologic Inc. of Herndon and Chantilly-based GTSI Corp., meanwhile, expect they will be in high demand for specialized projects such as toxic waste cleanup and rebuilding computer networks.

Washington's strong economic growth in recent years has been linked to federal contracting, particularly the homeland security and defense spending that was touched off by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and drew directly on the region's expertise in information technology.

Hurricane reconstruction, however, is not likely to have the same impact on this region. The larger construction and engineering firms that often work with FEMA are scattered around the country, and officials from those firms say the bulk of their reconstruction workforce is likely to come from the Gulf area itself.

Fluor Corp. of Southern California, for example, is planning to launch a training program in the affected area to give prospective employees construction skills, chief executive Alan L. Boeckmann said.

"We see it as a clear responsibility to help people get back on their feet," Boeckmann added.

Still, the massive scale and urgency of the project is going to be broadly felt as agencies and their main contractors hunt for supplies, equipment, talent -- and ideas. No one knows yet how much it will cost to put the region back together, but most agree that the $62.3 billion allotted by the federal government so far is just a down payment.

"What FEMA is going to be faced with is an enormous amount of small, medium and large projects to tackle different issues related to the relief," said Darryl B. Moody, BearingPoint's senior vice president of homeland security and intelligence. "FEMA is going to be contracting with companies like ours and others for that support."

The firm has solicited ideas from employees about ways the company might participate in the reconstruction.


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Katrina's Cost: Uncharted Territory
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal, Economy.com, White House | THE WASHINGTON POST
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