Small Businesses Play Big Part in Bechtel's Katrina Relief Efforts

Jackson, Mississippi - December 2, 2005 Small businesses have received more than 80 percent of the contract dollars spent by Bechtel to provide temporary housing to more than 60,000 people in Mississippi.

"Our mission is to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide temporary housing, and they have said that we're doing that more efficiently and effectively than has ever been done," said Jeannie Houston, Bechtel's small business advocate on the Katrina relief work.  "Small businesses have a large role in this successful effort and are contributing to this record-setting pace."

Bechtel's letter agreement with FEMA includes a goal of contracting at least 45 percent of all contract dollars with small businesses in Mississippi and other states.

Through Nov. 29, more than 80 percent, or $138 million, of the nearly $165 million spent so far by Bechtel to provide temporary housing to hurricane victims was spent with small business.  Nearly half, more than $80 million, of the $165 million was spent in Mississippi, where Bechtel has issued more than 290 individual orders for work, services, and supplies with small businesses in the state. 

"Basically after the hurricane we didn't have a job," said Tyron Gill, president of Gill & Associates, a Picayune, Mississippi, firm hired to haul and install temporary housing.  "We're still keeping our original business of selling and installing mobile homes, but without the work from Bechtel we would really be hurting."

More than 1,500 small businesses have registered with Bechtel to perform specific types of work.  These businesses also benefit from the services of a full-time advocate on the project who provides information and serves as a matchmaker for business.  "It's not unusual for us to have tasks that one business can't perform on its own, but if several small businesses work together, collectively they have the required skills.  We make every effort to introduce companies to each other to provide mechanisms for how they might work together," said Houston.

Janet Watkins, project manager for Watkins Home Repair, a Bhyalia, Mississippi, firm, is working in Biloxi, building ramps for temporary housing.  Her experience with Bechtel has broadened the way she has looked at her business.  "The work with Bechtel helped me do out-of-town contracting for the first time, which helps me understand how I can grow my business.  Bechtel has been a great company, bending over backward to help with my company's needs."

"We never forget our job is to get people in temporary housing as quickly as possible, but we also understand the importance of teaming with small businesses to perform the work and to help restore the economy of the Gulf Coast," Houston said.

Based in Frederick, Maryland, Bechtel National, Inc. (BNI) is a leading provider of services to the U.S. government, specializing in large, complex projects in such areas as defense, space, energy, security, and the environment.  BNI is part of San Francisco-based Bechtel Corporation, one of the world's premier engineering, construction, and project management companies, with experience on more than 22,000 projects in 140 countries.