Sandy Bump? Where Business Is Brisk After the Storm

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No one should anticipate that a “Sandy stimulus” will kick the economy into a higher gear. Even so, Sandy has caused businesses of all shapes and sizes to be exceptionally busy — including a few you wouldn’t expect.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, economists don’t think that the post-Sandy cleanup, rebuilding and increased spending by governments, homeowners and consumers will prove to be a major, long-lasting stimulus to the economy:

Economist Kevin Gillen, senior research consultant at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, recalled that after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, similar expectations never were realized.

“Tons of federal money poured into New Orleans after Katrina,” Gillen said. “Did you see their economy boom?”

Nonetheless, there are a few industries, pockets of small businesses and even individual entrepreneurs that have been — or will be soon — benefiting in the post-Sandy world. Here are a few:

Pay Phones
In New York City, pay phones that normally collect perhaps $2 daily were suddenly taking in $50 after Sandy hit, according to the Wall Street Journal. A few young callers forced to use a pay phone admitted they lost money in the machine because they didn’t know how to operate it.

(MORE: Deep Impact: Sandy’s Big Effects on Car Sales Now and for Months to Come)

With widespread airline and rail closures, the freight-trucking industry is looking at “close to a $2 billion revenue opportunity” as manufacturers seek alternative methods to get their products to market, said one expert cited by Reuters.

Cleanup Businesses
Unsurprisingly, firms that specialize in disaster recovery and cleanup have already secured huge contracts and dispatched thousands of workers to affected areas. “Sandy has impacted a very large land mass that involves densely populated areas and dense real estate environments,” Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Michigan-based Belfor Property Restoration, told CNN Money. “These features could make the scope of our work even bigger than with Katrina.”

Big-Box Retailers
In the aftermath of power outages, damaged roofs, flooded basements and yards strewn with debris, homeowners have flocked to stores such as Home Depot, Walmart and Lowe’s to snatch up generators, shovels, sump pumps and other equipment.

Hyperlocal News Sources
Monday, Oct. 29, represented the highest-ever traffic day for the AOL-owned Patch, which operates local news sites for small towns and communities around the country, with a particularly strong concentration in the New York tristate area. Patch page views were up by 88% from the previous day, according to Ad Age, which also reported strong traffic numbers in other hyperlocal news sites in the region, as people sought the most up-to-date — and local — information.

(MORE: Sandy: What a Coastal U.S. Can Learn from Other Threatened Cities)

Bars and Coffee Shops
New York City residents without electricity, without public transportation, or just without someone to talk to have been packing the mom-and-pop restaurants, diners and neighborhood bars that are lucky enough to have power. Some bars have been opening earlier than usual and ran out of drinks and food because of unusually large crowds trying to pass the time and fill their bellies in the days after the storm.

Some banks reported an unusually high number of ATMs out of cash or low on cash last week. That’s largely because power outages decreased the number of options for bank customers to take out money, and also because people seemed to be more in need of cash as some restaurants and other businesses couldn’t process credit-card transactions.

Social Media and Craigslist
Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr have been used to spread the word about everything from what gas stations are open to simple “We are O.K.” status updates from people living in affected areas. Craigslist, meanwhile, has helped commuters pair up to meet minimum-passenger requirements in cars entering Manhattan. It’s also provided a forum for a black market for gasoline, with some trying to sell gas to the desperate for $10 or more per gallon.

It’s been estimated that Sandy caused upwards of $50 billion in property damage. Because most of these properties will need to be repaired or rebuilt, the construction industry — which has suffered greatly during the Great Recession era — is expected to get a boost in the months and years ahead, reports the Associated Press.

(MORE: Post-Sandy Price Gouging: Economically Sound, Ethically Dubious)

Scrap Yards
Before construction begins, the mess left by the storm must be addressed — see rise in cleanup businesses above — and all the debris has to go somewhere. So do all the cars ruined by floodwater. Where the wreckage will wind up are places like Jersey City’s Claremont Terminal, featured in a Wall Street Journal story on the bustling post-Sandy scrap-yard industry.

PHOTOSThe Toil After the Storm: Life in Sandy’s Wake