Hurricane Charley spurs construction in central Florida

For Florida contractors as well as those in neighboring states, reconstruction after Hurricane Charley could mean millions of dollars in new projects. According to state officials, the price tag for damages to insured buildings alone could be as high as $11 billion.

The majority of the damage — about 60 percent — was done to the residential sector, but there was significant damage to some strip malls and small stores, says Steve Cona, president of the Florida Gulf Coast chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors. In Punta Gorda, a school, library and hospital sustained major damage.

“Before any reconstruction or renovation effort can begin, architectural plans will have to be drawn up,” Cona says. “In the commercial sector, construction will be a long process because inspectors first must determine if the building can be salvaged. If so, then plans must be drawn and it becomes more of a restoration process.”

Tree service companies and roofing contractors are getting some of the earliest contracts, clearing debris and placing temporary tarps on damaged roofs until permanent roofs can be built. When tree trimming equipment and grinders broke down in Punta Gorda, hydraulic hose manufacturer and emergency service company Pirtek was called in to repair equipment. Pirtek spokeswoman Wendy Yanis says employees from the Orlando area went to “ground zero” to help fix equipment and keep the cleanup effort in motion.

“Business is going to be very busy in Florida over the next few weeks and months,” Yanis says.

The reconstruction process won’t be quick. Insurance inspectors must first check out the damage, estimate repair costs and then file the claim. But with such widespread damage, insurance companies are backed up. During the week after the hurricane, approximately 4,000 insurance adjusters had been sent out to inspect the damage.

For projects already given the OK, construction has been put on hold because lumber and roofing supplies have been sold out since August 15. To help organize the high demand, the Disaster Contractors Network is publicizing what services and equipment are most needed and what reconstruction opportunities are available.

On the DCN website, contractors can post their services and contact information, and business owners or homeowners can publicize what work they need done. Shortly after the hurricane, the most needed pieces of equipment were power generators and more than 126 postings called for contractors who could replace roofs, demolish damaged businesses and build new ones in their place. The website also includes a license search that allows owners to find out if a contractor is licensed, and lets contractors find out if a license they have applied for has been approved.

To help speed up reconstruction, officials in Charlotte County plan to waive permit fees for those who want to rebuild damaged structures, and will put off permits for brand new construction projects. Officials are also considering cutting back on inspections during construction and only requiring a final inspection.

With so much work to be done in a short period of time, construction associations expect contractors from neighboring states will travel to Florida to take advantage of the numerous jobs. But, the Disaster Contractors Network warns contractors, it is illegal for any contractor who is not properly licensed in Florida to offer their services to the public. Contractors who are licensed in another state can serve as a subcontractor under a Florida licensed contractor.

In the past, it has become standard for Florida’s governor to set up a system in which out-of-state contractors can apply for temporary licenses. Due to the extreme damage in much of central Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to announce such a plan.

To find out what jobs are available in central Florida, or to find out what type of equipment is needed in the area, click the link to the right.