Two weeks have passed since Hurricane Katrina flooded Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Alabama. The deluge decimated New Orleans and left many processors in the region without power, water or means to communicate with employees.
Since then, many facilities are again up and running.
Injection molder Richard Plastics Co. of Laurel, Miss., got its power restored Sept. 7 and began operating Sept. 8. Though the facility suffered no damage, many employees were less lucky.
``Most of them don't have power at their houses,'' said President David Buck. One of his 16 employees relocated to Florida with her daughter until her house is inhabitable.
United Plastic Molders Inc., a Jackson, Miss., injection molder, also lost power for a week, but production has resumed, according to a spokesman.
Philadelphia-based Constar International Inc., a blow molder, also has a facility in Jackson. While it has power and water restored, fuel shortages and power outages are going to be a continued hindrance, the company said in a news release.
Less than a week after Heritage Plastics Inc.'s compounding plant in Picayune, Miss., took a direct hit from the hurricane, the company was operating again - surprising even the company's managers, who had thought the plant would be out of service for several weeks.
``We should be back at full speed by the end of the week,'' Martin Lowe, company treasurer, said in a Sept. 6 telephone interview.
The company had planned to obtain a pair of generators to restart production, owner Carl Allen had said Sept. 1 by telephone. So Heritage executives were pleasantly surprised Sept. 3 when Mississippi Power workers arrived at the plant and asked if it was OK to restore power.
``It's amazing. They did a great job,'' Lowe said. ``The area still is in incredibly bad shape, as everyone knows. But our company is running. We shipped [Sept. 2] from inventory. We're shipping everything by truck right now,'' while waiting for rail service to be restored.
After the initial shock of seeing damaged neighborhoods and newly homeless people crowded into the Superdome, the country now is seeing the long-term effects of Katrina. Polyethylene prices have increased. Companies must reassess capacity. Some employees have to relocate. Some facilities that incurred no physical damage still will suffer many inconveniences, such as dead phone lines.
Mike Henagan is executive vice president of Mid South Extrusion Inc. Based in Monroe, La., MSE suffered no outages, but a few interruptions from the storm. The plant was undamaged but now is dealing with the aftermath.
``We've been really busy with resin increases and price increases ... [and] surges that put the power lines down,'' Henagan said. Those problems are likely to become commonplace, at least for a time.
On a brighter note, companies continue to come forward and offer assistance. SleeveCo Inc., a label printer and converter in Dawsonville, Ga., will be sponsoring a family: setting them up with housing, food and clothes, and jobs at the company for the parents. The family has not been selected yet, said President David Johnson, but accommodations are being prepared.
The Society of Plastics Engineers of Brookfield, Conn., has started a Web site at www.spe.org/ katrinablog, where affected companies can post their needs, and others in the industry can offer aid.
Jack Riopelle, co-owner of Wisconsin Film & Bag Inc. and Southern Film & Bag LLC, has spearheaded a program called ``Wisconsin cares about Mississippi.'' Riopelle has offered the use of Southern Film's 50,000-square-foot warehouse in Summit, Miss., as a distribution point for the Salvation Army.
Wisconsin film is based in Shawano, Wis.
Riopelle also got other Wisconsin companies to donate to the Salvation Army including Neenah, Wis.-based Tidi Products LLC (formerly Banta Healthcare Group Ltd.).