Do Big Storms Help the Repro Business?
By Ed Avis
When a big storm like Sandy or Katrina rips through a community, the first order of business is saving lives and getting things back to normal. But when the dust settles and repairs begin, can reprographics shops expect a surge in business? It seems like all the repair work would create demand for plans.
I asked two reprographics people that question – one who was affected by Hurricane Ike and one caught in the midst of Sandy.
Michael Shaw, owner of Central Digital Resources in Great Neck, New York (which is on Long Island), was in the path of Hurricane Sandy. He lost power, but otherwise counts himself lucky compared to many other businesses in the area.
Is he looking for a rush of business now that repairs are underway? Sadly, no. He says the majority of work being done post-Sandy is repair work that usually doesn’t require pulling a set of plans. In some cases the damage may be bad enough to warrant that, but not often enough to significantly improve business.
But Shaw does see potential in two areas: The improvement of infrastructure prompted by the effects of the storm, and business prompted by companies that want to make sure their documents are secure in the next storm.
For example, municipalities may want to move more infrastructure underground or otherwise make it less susceptible to storm damage, which would logically lead to more reprographics work. This is more likely to happen if FEMA money is available to pay for the improvements.
The other area – companies seeking reprographics assistance to improve their document safety – is probably an even larger opportunity.
"We can tell people we dodged a bullet this time,” Shaw says. "But with big storms happening about once a year around here, are your documents safe?”
Chuck Gremillion III, who now operates Gremillion Consulting Services in Houston and previously was an executive at Thomas Reprographics and A&E – The Graphics Complex, remembers when Hurricane Ike damaged the Thomas Repro office in Houston. Here’s what he said when I asked him about the effect on business:
As for the impact of big storms, it is double edged. It does create a lot of new construction, but that is often offset by the implications of being out of business for several days because of the loss of power and because of damage that was caused by the storm. My advice to business owners is to be certain that they have business-interruption insurance to go along with their property & casualty insurance, and to consider purchasing or having access to a back-up generator(s).
Having a strong business-interruption insurance policy is critical in my opinion. Not only does it cover loss of revenue but it helps to pay employees' salaries while the company is unable to generate revenue. In our case in Houston, we also had significant water damage brought about by a damaged roof during Hurricane Ike. Fortunately, Thomas Reprographics had very good property & casualty and business-interruption insurance policies.
So two views from two storms, but in both cases, it seems that the storm itself did not produce a lot of new business. But in the long run, who knows?