Federal contracts to build temporary housing for victims of the Florida hurricanes and other disasters have provided a boost for Georgia's slumping manufactured housing industry.
Under an $8 million contract from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Destiny Industries of Moultrie, Ga., is building 300 single-wide manufactured homes. An affiliated company, Triangle Furniture, has received a $500,000 contract to build interior furnishings.
"We're proud to get it, and we're proud to help," said William G. Edwards, Destiny's chief executive.
Following the hurricanes last month, there were many news photos of mangled mobile homes in Florida.
But Edwards said many of the homes destroyed in the hurricanes were built before the adoption of federal construction and safety standards in 1976. Homes built since then are legally known as "manufactured housing," rather than mobile homes.
Destiny's FEMA homes are reinforced to withstand winds of up to 130 mph, the maximum wind speed of a Category 3 hurricane, he said.
"They're very rugged and made for high-wind zones," he said. "They're safe and secure, and they can be set up in an hour."
Charlotte Gattis, executive director of the Georgia Manufactured Housing Association, said Destiny was among several Georgia companies that received FEMA contracts for manufactured houses.
"It just makes sense for the Georgia manufacturers to build them because we are so close to Florida," she said.
FEMA stations the homes all over the country and moves them into disaster areas to provide temporary housing.
The agency brought hundreds to the Albany area following Georgia's worst natural disaster -- major flooding along the Flint and Ocmulgee rivers -- in 1994.
Georgia led the nation in manufactured housing production in 1999, with 45,996 homes. Then, the economy turned sour.
Lending institutions, which had been granting loans liberally for manufactured homes, cut back. Factory workers, a major market for manufactured housing, begin losing their jobs, and the state became glutted with repossessed homes.
As of August, Georgia had slumped to fifth place in manufactured housing production, behind Tennessee, Texas, Indiana and Alabama.
Gattis said the FEMA contracts should help the industry.
"The extra production will in some cases tide them over until retail sales in the state . . . come back," she said. "You've got an enormous number of supply companies that will benefit. You've got the transportation. You've got a lot of spinoff and trickle-down effect."
Edwards said Destiny was on the verge of an expansion anyway. His company added 45 workers to fulfill the FEMA contract, bringing its workforce to 170.
"One of the reasons we bid on the contract is that we're in the midst of raising production," he said. "Our business has been blessed, so the people we're adding we will keep."
All the FEMA homes should be built and delivered by the end of next week. Then the company will get back to its specialty -- modular homes, Edwards said.
Modular homes, built to exceed local building codes, sit on permanent foundations and typically cover 18,000 to 24,000 square feet. Built at the Destiny factory and placed on site by a crane, they are often hard to distinguish from regular "stick-built" homes, Edwards said.
The FEMA contract was the fourth for Triangle. Earlier this year, Triangle workers built $1.5 million worth of furnishings for 1,000 homes that Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. built under a federal contract, said Edwards's son, Jonathan, who runs the furniture company.