Blown Away By Katrina

Among the devastation were more than 60,000 black-owned businesses, including 19 B.E. 100s firms. Can these companies and the jobs they provided be restored?

government checks come out.” King says that all these things combined created a tremendous need for cash and that he was concerned the bank would run out of cash. Fortunately, the institution received an emergency cash shipment from the Federal Reserve out of Birmingham, Alabama.

Patrick Fontenot, president and CEO of Opelousas, Louisiana-based Williams-Progressive Life & Accident Insurance Co. No. 5 on the BE INSURANCE COMPANIES list with $10.4 million in assets), says Katrina had no direct effect on his business other than the fact that he is part owner of United Bank and Trust, a black bank in New Orleans, which has since relocated to WPL’s offices. Long term, however, he is optimistic. “I think the redevelopment in New Orleans will be a win-win for my bank.”

Virgil Robinson Jr., president and CEO of Dryades Savings Bank F.S.B. (No. 16 on the BE BANKS list with $102.9 million in assets), has also been affected by the storm. Robinson is trying to get cleanup crews to make his three New Orleans-based branches operational: one is three feet underwater, a second location is likely to have had serious flooding, and a third branch has wind damage and minor flooding. “Obviously we’re incurring expenses that we didn’t expect or plan for. Insurance only covers a portion of expenses, and we’re looking into some programs that might help us recoup some funds,” says Robinson. “From a business interruption, because we will experience a downturn with our customers surely, we’re looking at major economic setbacks.” However, Robinson expects Dryades to be one of the first banks online and to participate in rebuilding New Orleans.

Bob Goldston, owner of Family Ford and Family Hyundai in Florence, Alabama, has “actually seen a spike in business at [the] Hyundai dealership, which is a new dealership, because of the gas and cost of car.”

“With the surging gas prices after Katrina, people want an economical car. So we’ve seen about a 10% increase in business. In fact, a lot of the displaced families have settled in this area. We were on the forefront of helping out, and when people needed cars they thought of us. One of the displaced families that lost their car in the Katrina devastation bought two cars.” (For coverage of the B.E. 100s’ contributions to the Katrina relief efforts, see sidebar and visit

Andrew Rhodes, 49, owner of Shab Diversified Inc., a small non-emergency medical transportation company that had two full-time and two part-time employees, is another displaced black entrepreneur from New Orleans now scattered throughout the country. He currently resides in a hotel in Montgomery, Alabama.

Business was growing. Shab generated $130,000 in revenues last year, and prior to Katrina, Rhodes had expected to gross $230,000 for 2005. “I increased my capacity with the purchase of two new vans in April, and I increased the distance I traveled,” Rhodes said. All that changed with Katrina as Rhodes and his family were forced to drive more than 12 hours from New Orleans to Montgomery in a

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7