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Hurricane Katrina — After the Storm

September 2007 By Cheryl Adams
Managing Editor
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NEVER BEFORE has the face of the commercial printing industry changed so drastically, so quickly or so permanently. After one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history hit New Orleans in August 2005, two-thirds of The Big Easy’s printers were gone.

Pre-Katrina, there were 120 printers in the New Orleans area. After Katrina, there were (are) only 36. The math is almost unbelievable, but the numbers do not lie. These grim statistics come from the Printing Industry Association of the South (PIAS). Ed Chalifoux, president, provides the surreal details.

“After Katrina, most printers just shut their doors. Seventy-five percent of shops with 10 employees or less did not reopen. They remained closed, mostly because they lost everything. Their presses were sitting in several feet of saltwater, their paper supply turned to pulp, their computers were destroyed, and all of their print jobs were compromised at best, lost at worst.

Flood vs. Wind Damage

“Insurance companies paid, on average, $500,000 for flood damage. But there was wind damage from the hurricane, and a lot of that was not covered,” Chalifoux continues. “The money printers did collect was not near enough to recoup from the damage. Thus, many of them opted out of the business, rather than try to start over or rebuild with only a fraction of the funds they needed—which would be a daunting task.”

Of course, there were a few survivors.

“Some shops were not hit at all; some weren’t hit that bad; some were hit but didn’t want to quit,” Chalifoux adds. “Many merged: Two, three businesses operating as one, starting over as a new company.”

Mpress is a good example. It’s the merged operation of three printing businesses: Monahan, Metairie and Franklin Southland. All were New Orleans printers impacted by the storm.

“Southland lost everything; its entire operation was underwater,” Chalifoux explains. “Metairie suffered a significant loss of business, too, but the location remained intact. So, Southland moved in with Metairie. Monahan fared pretty well—physically untouched, but emotionally drained after losing half of its 65-employee work force, who were evacuated and displaced. Monahan’s owner decided it was time to get out of the printing business. And, so, Metairie eventually sold out to Monahan, and the three former printing companies are now combined under the Mpress corporate umbrella out of the former Monahan facility.”

Another case of once competitors putting their heads (’er, and businesses) together is that of Harvey-Hauser Printing, whose namesake is derived from the merger of Harvey Press and Hauser Printing.
 

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