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Rebuilding after Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast--especially New Orleans and Mississippi--with rage and fury, leaving devastation in its wake. Classified as the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, it has been marked by the loss of hundreds of lives, the displacement of thousands of residents, and the decimation of more than $100 billion in property. These statistics are no surprise to most of you who spent hours glued to television sets and poring over newspapers. You witnessed, through footage, photos, and articles, the tales of tragedy and woe.

Katrina hit close to home for many of us--especially for those who unselfishly took evacuees into their homes and hearts. We, too, had to deal with its stormy aftermath. In fact, one of our interns, Tennille Robinson, a New Orleans native and 2004 graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana, suffered through the agony of loss. Katrina's brutal winds and subsequent flooding wiped out her family's home. Even with such events whirling around her, Tennille diligently went about writing and researching stories to benefit our readers and Website visitors.

In addition to taking care of our own, the BLACK ENTERPRISE family felt it was our duty to give to the relief effort. Our immediate response to the crisis was the $25,000 our publisher, Earl G. Graves Sr., donated on behalf of BE to the victims of Katrina at this year's Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge. He challenged black professionals and entrepreneurs gathered at the event to do the same.

But one of the biggest casualties of the disaster, which failed to receive mass media coverage, has been black business. In our special report, "Blown Away by Katrina," Features Editor Alan Hughes found that 60,000 black-owned companies along the Gulf Coast had been ravaged by the hurricane. About 20 BE 100s companies were affected, including Lundy Enterprises L.L.C. (No. 83 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $35.2 million in gross sales), Dryades Savings Bank FSB (No. 16 on the Be BANKS list with $103.5 million in assets), and Liberty Bank and Trust (No. 3 on the BE BANKS list with $348.2 million in assets). Liberty, the 33-year-old institution and one of the major banks for the New Orleans school system, lost $40 million and a significant portion of its depositor base.

The process of rebuilding is now gaining momentum and it is imperative that black businesses are not left behind in the reconstruction efforts the way thousands of New Orleans residents were in the early days of Katrina's aftermath. New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin has developed a commission to plot the next steps. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun the process of granting contracts tot environmental cleanup and infrastructure repair. And President George W. Bush proposed the formation of a Gulf Coast Opportunity Zone to foster business development and job creation in the devastated region.

As these efforts take hold, black businesses must have significant involvement in the redevelopment of the Gulf Coast. The composition of Nagin's commission is a good start. The 16-member panel includes eight blacks and eight whites from the business and public sectors. FEMA needs to ensure that black-owned companies gain access to contracts and subcontracting opportunities. And black businesses must lobby hard to ensure that the Bush administration does not renege on its pledge to provide funding and access to opportunities for minority businesses, specifically African American business.

Why should we be concerned about the business of reconstruction? Before the days of the administration of the late New Orleans Mayor Ernest "Dutch" Morial in the 1970s and 1980s, which was responsible for instituting programs for black-owned businesses, African Americans found it challenging to participate in the economic development of the Big Easy. It wasn't easy for black entrepreneurs in the pre-Katrina Gulf Coast, but established firms, large and small, represented a vital element in its economy. In New Orleans and neighboring cities, black businesses provided thousands of jobs to African Americans and fortified localities and state coffers with millions in tax dollars. Since the efforts of African American entrepreneurs have been responsible, in part, for building the region, they deserve no less than to fully participate in the area's economic rebirth. With their energy and industry, they will bring an influx of new and returning professionals and entrepreneurs to fuel the growth of the region and advance the economic status of its citzenry.--The Editors
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Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Previous Article:Katrina: let outrage lead to commitment.
Next Article:Proof positive.

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