COMPANIES PICKING UP THE PIECES IN HOUSTON
Road back from Hurricane Harvey has begun, will take weeks if not months
“We’re open for business. I want to make that clear.” Bob Eury, president of Central Houston, a non-profit group that plans business development in the city
Amid piles of wet drywall and ruined electrical systems, Houston businesses are inching back to normalcy.
Thousands of companies affected by Hurricane Harvey are tearing down walls and doors, installing dehumidifiers, shuffling work shifts, fortifying secure Internet connections for people who work remotely and pooling funds to help colleagues.
The recovery work is far from smooth, and tasks such as negotiating with insurance companies, finding enough money for repairs and dealing with traumatized, no-place-togo employees will take weeks, if not months. Many small business owners without flood insurance, in particular, are possibly looking at years of debt and bankruptcies.
Still, the mood in Houston’s business corridors, like the weather, has lifted, says Bob Eury, president of Central Houston, a non-profit group that plans business development in downtown Houston, which daily sees about 150,000 workers. “It’d appear that most employers in downtown are back up and operating,” he said Thursday. “It feels like a normal day today. We’re open for business. I want to make that clear.”
The cycle of destruction and recovery will replay in much of Florida in the coming weeks as homes and businesses affected by Hurricane Irma also begin to dig out. While Texas and Florida differ in industries, they are among two of the nation’s largest and most economically influential states. And the pace of their recovery could have significant consequences for the broader national economy.
Energy is Houston’s primary economic engine, with many oil companies, refineries, pipeline operators and oil rig equipment makers based in the region. But it’s also home to some of the world’s most renowned hospitals and a thriving aerospace corridor, thanks to a sizable presence of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The gross domestic product of the Houston–The Woodlands– Sugar Land metropolitan area was $503.3 billion in 2015, the fourth largest of any metro area in the U.S., according to government data, so it’s important to the nation that companies and people get back to work as quickly as possible.
After Harvey struck the region, roughly 27% of all leasable space in Houston, including apartments, could be flooded, or about 600 million square feet, estimated CoStar Group, a commercial real estate information firm. About 70 million of it was office buildings, including low-rise structures.
Damage from Harvey would likely reach $150 billion to $200 billion, Moody’s Analytics estimated.
Buffalo Bayou, the slow-moving river that stretches through downtown, overflowed after days of rain, flooding the theater district and other parts of downtown.
Water — or more accurately, a black mixture of chemicals, sewage and water — has been pumped out, having left about $15 million of damage.
Workers begin cleaning up Alley Theater in Houston, which was heavily flooded after Hurricane Harvey.
Workers begin the long process of cleaning up and repairing facilities at the Houston Ballet after Harvey.