Some Gulf Coast businesses flooded out of their home bases by Hurricane Katrina are resuming work in ad hoc fashion, setting up remote offices or using e-mail and Web sites to notify employees and clients of new addresses and phone numbers.
One of them is Allen William Kelly & Associates, run by Allen Kelly, a general contracting firm formerly of Canal Boulevard in New Orleans, near Lake Pontchartrain. The lake's waters have probably covered many of Kelly's construction projects.
"I've been e-mailing out the wazoo," said Kelly, who doesn't maintain a company Web site but has been working out of Houston, e-mailing and using his BlackBerry to stay in close touch with clients. He has compiled a list of prospective clients who want to hire him to rebuild their homes. "I can't do anything until I'm allowed to get back into the city," he said, but "I believe that the economic engine of New Orleans needs to get started."
With communications still hobbled -- many cell phone numbers with the 504 New Orleans area code were not working because phone switches were down -- and some employees' conditions still unknown, many businesses appeared to be in preliminary stages of reassembling their workforces.
Some evacuated businesses landed at the doorstep of David Herr in Montgomery, Tex., whose disaster-management company is leasing 100,000 square feet to set up satellite offices for hurricane-affected businesses. Herr, of Westlin Corp., provides telephones, fax machines, desktop computers and data-storage facilities at reduced rents.
After posting ads on hurricane-news-related Web sites, he received eight or nine calls, he said, and within a day or two he expects a law firm, an oil company and a contractor to set up temporary shop there.
"It's totally off the charts for what anybody's planned for," Herr said, and business is far from humming along. "One of our customers is trying to locate their personnel. They've been only able to locate 25 percent of their key personnel."
Some employers in the affected regions posted messages to employees about paycheck policies and estimates on when business might resume.
The Web site for celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse's restaurants (www.emerils.com) posted a link to notify his New Orleans employees that they will continue to receive direct deposits to their accounts.
"Due to conditions in New Orleans, we do not know at this time when the restaurants will be able to be reopened," the site said. "We are making efforts to employ New Orleans employees at other locations, where possible."
At the Allen Toyota dealership in Gulfport, Miss., the front of the building was torn off, and a skeletal staff had returned by yesterday, an employee said. The business's Web site posted a notice: "Due to Hurricane Katrina our dealerships ability to respond promptly to Internet inquiries is limited. Please send us an email and we will get back with you just as soon as we can."
Textron Systems Inc., an aerospace and defense company that operates its Textron Marine & Land unit out of New Orleans, posted information about paychecks and health-insurance coverage for its employees, as well as links for employees who are trying to find their pets. The company had 1,150 affected employees, of whom about 800 have been located, a spokeswoman said.
Textron's teams "have been working non-stop to assess the situation and determine next steps for getting our business up and running," Textron President Dick Millman posted in a letter on the company's Web site. "Our Slidell, [La.], facility was relatively undamaged and we plan to be back in operation within a month or so."
Some businesses outside the affected areas used the Web to offer interim employment, including a group of restaurants in the Washington area.
Heidi Koontz of Intuitive Fare LLC in Centreville, Va., who does marketing for restaurants, set up www.restaurantjobsforyou.com on Monday, a site that is trying to link Washington area businesses with displaced restaurant workers looking for housing and jobs.
"The problem is that the phone numbers I've called and the e-mails that I've sent -- they're down," she said. "People don't have computers with them." She is hoping to help some of the 400 people taking refuge in the D.C. Armory, she said.
A businesswoman in Florida is working online to help storm-damaged companies prepare to return to New Orleans.
"What will hold that city up is the small businesses," said Kim Hughes, president of Hughes Display Group Inc., a display-case design company. On Monday, Hughes started using a Web site she owns (http://allneworleans.com) to set up a directory for New Orleans businesses to post their new locations. "There needs to be a way for them to network," she said.