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New business coalition aims to aid recovery

The South Louisiana Recovery Team is an independent group of business owners seeking to help firms impacted by storms get back on their feet. Though most of the group’s founding members are from Terrebonne Parish, they hope to expand their area of operations to several nearby parishes. Communication with Lafourche businesses has already started.

The program is modeled after the South Central Industrial Association’s “Operation Rebuild” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which helped local businesses reconnect telephones, restore electricity, find generators, locate hotels and overcome the other logistical hurdles a hurricane creates.

This new effort isn’t an SCIA enterprise, though Jane Arnette, the group’s executive director, sits on its board of directors.

“This is a new enterprise put together entirely by local businesses. This isn’t a government agency and it’s not a SCIA project, though we’re involved,” Arnette said. “We know that it’s essential that our businesses get back on their feet after a disaster, and this is a very good way to help them do that.”

To contact the group, call the phone numbers 281-840-5823 through 281-840-5826.

The team is looking for new member companies to contribute equipment and personnel to the cause. It is especially looking for volunteers to man the main assistance hotlines.

Bryan Chaisson is the CEO of NREC, a power generation and marine engine company. A member of the recovery team, Chaisson distributed 38 generators to local businesses and government agencies before Isaac made landfall.

In his rush to get the generators out, Chaisson accidentally gave out the generator he reserved for his own business.

“I got back from the Sheriff’s Office thinking I was going to power up my office generator, only to find out I’d given it away,” Chaisson said, chuckling.

Chaisson said hurricanes, especially the ones more devastating than Isaac, are often a life-or-death proposition for small businesses that sometime survive on razor-thin profit margins.

“If you’re shut down for a week, the employees don’t get a paycheck. The business doesn’t bring in any revenue,” he said. “As soon as customers get back they start calling around. And if you’re not the first person to pick up the phone, you’re in trouble.”

Chaisson said he sees the new team as a way to limit that down time.

“Terrebonne Parish has very low unemployment. If we can get this thing going and make our small businesses more resilient, we can keep things that way,” he said.

Staff Writer Matthew Albright can be reached at 448-7635 or at [email protected]

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