Businesses Making Money Off Hurricane Sandy

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Damage from Hurricane Sandy is bad news for homeowners, but it's good news for plumbers, carpenters, tree surgeons, trash haulers, carpet cleaners, scrap dealers and a host of other businesses whose services are now in peak demand.

Bernard Baumohl, executive director of the Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, N.J., predicts that recovery efforts in the Northeast will add half a percentage point to U.S. GDP. "We're looking at some major reconstruction taking place at homes, boats, bridges, boardwalks, parks and public transportation," he told the Newark Star-Ledger Sunday.

Economics professor Peter Morici at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, estimates that while economic losses from Sandy could range from $35 billion to $45 billion, the economic payoff from reconstruction could be as much as $36 billion, plus another $10 billion gain, afterwards, from having an improved and more modern infrastructure.

The biggest beneficiaries of Hurricane Sandy include:

-Disaster Recovery Companies: ProStar Residential Disaster Cleanup in Milford, Conn., reports its phones are ringing nonstop from customers asking for help fixing broken windows and flooded basements. The International Herald Tribune quotes Dough Palmieri, owner of his own construction company in Middlefield, as saying, "I always look forward to a natural disaster."

-Tree Surgeons: Ridgewood Tree Service in Bergen County, New Jersey, tells the Washington Post it is getting 200 phone calls a day, non-stop. At North Jersey Tree Specialists in Wayne, N.J., the office manager, Tara Gallagher, told the Newark Star-Ledger, "We're ridiculously busy. We're swamped getting trees out of people's properties."

-Generator and Pump Makers. Manufacturers as far away from the disaster as Minnesota and Wisconsin are benefiting from the Northeast's urgent need for more electrical generators, both portable and fixed. Todd Teske, chairman and CEO of generator-maker Briggs & Stratton in Wauwatosa, told the Business Journal of Milwaukee his company has ramped up production and authorized more overtime; it soon will be hiring more workers. The same holds true for competitors Generac Holdings (maker of home standby and portable generators) and Kohler Company.

Pentair, a major pump manufacturer in Golden Valley, Minn., says it expects to make $10 million in Sandy-related emergency sales to customers in New York and New Jersey.

-Carpet Cleaners: These are boom times for companies like Century Carpet Cleaning in Ocean City, N.J. Owner Rob Greenebaum told the Salisbury, Md., Daily Times on Sunday that he had been up since 5 am Wednesday, working nonstop. "I'm running on adrenaline," Greenebaum told the newspaper, "But this is what we do for a living." Eleven Century trucks are now at work in Wayne, N.J., and Greenebaum says he is bringing in extra drying equipment by the tractor-trailer load from contractors in other states as reinforcements.

-Plumbers, Electricians: Basim Mansour, owner of Michael & Son Services in Alexandria, Va., tells the Post his volume of incoming calls has increased 20 percent. Plumbing-related sales have increased 35 percent, he estimates, mostly from homeowners reporting broken generators or non-working sump pumps. At the John C. Flood company, also in Alexandria, owner Moe Haislip tells the Post his crews are working 16-hour shifts. "Our business is up probably 30 or 40 percent," he said earlier this week, when the number of people without power in the Washington area was estimated to be more than 100,000.

According to the Plumbing Inspectors Association, once a home water heater becomes flooded, the manufacturer's warranty automatically becomes void. Homeowners can try to dry them out themselves, but it's easier and safer to call a plumber.

-Scrap yards. All over the Northeast, scrap yards are bracing for a spike in business. At Rockaway Recycling in Rockaway, N.J., owner Tom Buechel told the Wall St. Journal, "We know that we're going to be very busy for the next few months. We have to benefit from other people's misery, but this is a business." Yard owners say they expect to see a 10 percent to 15 percent weekly increase in scrap metal volume, starting in about a week—first in the form of aluminum siding, copper pipes and home wiring; then steel from light posts, boilers and hot water heaters. Last will come cars, once insurance companies have consigned them to the heap.

-Boat Repair. Though many boats were tossed around, beached or broken by the hurricane, and though demand for repairs is strong, work temporarily is being hampered by two factors, according to a spokesman for the Boat Owners Association of the United States: Many marinas literally were washed away; and those that have survived are having trouble getting electric power.

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