NEW ORLEANS — For the straight third week, URS Construction Administrator Dan Van Dyke will rise at 5 a.m. for a 90-minute drive across
Under contract with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Van Dyke will start the day with dozens of right-of-entry forms from displaced
He checks for holes in the roof, shingles torn asunder, and determines if a temporary cover or other repairs are needed. He sketches a diagram, writes up an estimate and moves on to the next house.
Then, somewhere between 6 and 6:30 p.m., Van Dyke and the rest of the URS detail pack up for the 90-minute drive back to
“I thought it was a great opportunity to help out,” said Van Dyke, who normally calls
FEMA is one of publicly traded URS Corp.’s largest federal contracts. In recent years, URS has dispatched workers to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the
The FEMA contract is managed through the
Last winter, the
“It’s a tall order for any company,” said Mitchell Watt, vice president and managing principal of the
Simultaneously working to transition 480
“This particular arrangement has been interesting,” Watt said. “Just finding housing for our staff and getting them to work has been a challenge.”
FEMA provides a significant per-diem allowance, Watt said, but there are no operating hotels within three hours of
“It was a real eye-opening experience, much more challenging than
To make matters worse, the staff was evacuated during Hurricane Rita.
For all the challenges of the initial response, Watt believes it will pale compared to the long-term efforts facing URS and other providers involved in rebuilding efforts.
Following the initial structural evaluations currently under way, URS will aid a deeper examination of the true cost to rebuild the region.
“It’ll be probably a 10-year process,” Watt said. “It’s a matter of, ‘How do you avoid this happening in the future?'”
As the region rebuilds during what appears to be an ongoing cycle of high-wind hurricanes, the architectural design community will face the challenge of how to build structures and cities resilient to that abuse.
As one of the company’s three largest design houses, the
“More than likely it will be a huge windfall for the entire company and a nice windfall for
Because the rebuilding will likely be phased over a decade, Watt is unsure — but nonetheless hopeful — that the growth will translate into hiring in the local market.