Through the first two months of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) spending binge on Hurricane Katrina relief, more than $625 million went to Texas companies for everything from cleanup crews to nails and screws.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, only a handful of contracts came to the San Antonio area, but recreational vehicle dealers around Bexar County and the Rio Grande Valley picked up about half of the $12.2 million that FEMA spent in Texas on emergency housing. About as many RVs were sold to contractors going to disaster areas.
Tymonee Piel, business manager at the South Texas RV Super Store in Seguin, is putting the finishing touches on a contract for 36 recreational vehicles that she hopes will be on their way to Baton Rouge this week.
The deal, estimated at more than $700,000 according to government records, will cap a hectic eight weeks for the company. South Texas RV is one of many dealerships in the region that enjoyed a spike in business from government and private-sector buying in the wake of Katrina.
FEMA contacted Piel and many other dealers asking for inventories of units that suited their requirements for housing evacuees. But while FEMA was evaluating the inventories, general contractors were streaming into dealerships looking for units to house their workers.
“One contractor wanted 13 travel trailers,” Piel said. “Another contractor wanted eight travel trailers and he wanted them that day.”
Piel has had the FEMA contract for a month, but there were so many modifications requested that the dealer is just now ready to start shipping them.
The competition between FEMA and private contractors for trailers occurred all over the state. Roger Adams, store manager for Ancira RV in Boerne, said that between the government and the contractors he sold about 65 travel trailers.
Ron Hoover RV and Marine enjoyed sales to FEMA at all four of its stores – in Boerne, Donna, Rockport and Houston. FEMA took about 75 units in September, a spokesman said, adding that FEMA alone boosted sales for the month by 25 percent.
Crestview RV Superstore, which has dealerships in Selma and Buda, sold 52 travel trailers to FEMA for more than $1 million. But all the sales were out of the Buda lot and Roy Riggs, sales manager at the Selma lot, was left wishing some of the FEMA business had come his way.
After the initial buying binge, Riggs said, the agency started putting in its orders direct to the manufacturers.
“We do have a bid with them, but they’ve stopped buying,” Riggs said. “A lot of the units we have are going to have what I call all the bells and whistles. FEMA wanted to buy units to its specifications — plain Janes.”