Not everybody considered Hurricane Katrina a bad thing.
Folks at the Levee Sandbag Co. says it's the best thing that ever happened to them.
Just before the hurricane, Levee was going into bankruptcy. It was blackballed by the Army Corps of Engineers because it sold faulty sandbags that broke loose every time it rained. It couldn't pay the subcontractors for the sand.
Levee executives were being investigated by the Justice Department for skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars of stockholder money and hiding it in an offshore bank account in the Canary Islands.
That was the situation when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
A week later, Levee CEO Angus Headwater was at home watching "Survivor" when the phone rang.
It was his executive vice president, Chris Croft, who said, "I just saw President Bush on CNN, and he said he was going to rebuild New Orleans no matter what it cost. He's talking about billions of dollars, and Levee deserves to have a piece of the pie."
"Do you think we can get a contract after being blackballed for making faulty sandbags?"
"I'm sure of it. I just got a call from FEMA and they said they'd buy any sandbags, no matter what condition, no questions asked."
"I knew we could depend on the government's money to get us out of a jam," Headwater said.
The VP said, "We can use up the old sandbags that are still in the warehouse, and instead of charging $3 a bag, we'll double it to $6."
Headwater said, "No one should complain. It's only taxpayer money. Are all the companies that are trying to save New Orleans on the gravy train?"
"Of course," said Croft. "You mention a billion dollars to them and they immediately sign up. The new mantra is, 'Jazz and the money will come down the Mississippi.' "
Headwater said, "Will the hurricanes get the Justice Department off our backs?"
"You bet. It would look bad for them to go into court and prosecute someone who was saving the dikes."
"Let's take a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal saying that because of all the destruction we will be able to pay our bills."
Croft said, "We can't buy the ad unless we pay upfront. They don't trust us anymore."
"We'll get a loan from the bank and produce the sandbag contract as collateral. Can we be sure to get a government contract?"
Croft replied, "I'm certain of it. We have friends in Washington in high places and they know friends who know people in high government circles."
"What you're saying is that we have to hire lobbyists."
"It's the price of doing business. One thing that will attract a contract is that we'll provide employment for 500 sandbag fillers. They'll be expected to fill a sandbag every 45 minutes."
Headwater said, "Maybe the president will visit our warehouse on his next visit and fill a sandbag for the photographers."
"It's a great photo op, and can't help but convince the public he cares."
(c) 2005 Tribune Media Services