Baton Rouge disaster recovery firm sees business surge in wake of Laura, Sally

    A particularly active Gulf Coast hurricane season means some companies have spent the past few months ramping up operations to accommodate a high volume of business.

    Take The Workforce Group, a locally based disaster recovery firm that specializes in staffing, insurance claims and post-disaster technology assistance. Between all these services, CEO Bart Farmer estimates his 7-year-old company—recognized in 2019 by Business Report as one of Baton Rouge’s Top 100 Private Companies—is seeing a 40% uptick in revenues from last year. (While Farmer declined to disclose last year’s revenues, the firm reported nearly $35 million in earnings at the end of 2018.)

    “Most of the growth is coming from our disaster recovery division, which makes up 80% of our business,” Farmer says. “Our staffing division augments our disaster division.” 

    Since Hurricane Laura, which made landfall in southwest Louisiana in late August, and Hurricane Sally, which hit Gulf Shores, Alabama, in mid-September, the company has been on a hiring spree, recruiting workers to staff debris cleanup projects across three state Department of Transportation and Development districts, two parishes in north Louisiana and four cities in Alabama. Meanwhile, as Hurricane Delta’s impact is being assessed, the firm is also in the process of determining whether it will simply broaden existing relief efforts in affected areas or bring on new teams to address different problems.

    The Workforce Group provides manpower to the prime contract-holder on government contracts for debris monitoring and emergency response in each area. At its peak, the company had 144 workers cleaning up hurricane debris across the two states this hurricane season; that number has since dwindled down to about 105 workers staffing the relief projects today, some of whom were laid off from their service-industry jobs during the pandemic.

    “This is the biggest combined number of hires for debris pickup projects we’ve ever had,” says COO Marston Fowler, noting the company is still staffing people for longer-term relief projects related to the Baton Rouge floods of 2016 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017, among others. “It’s the most people we’ve ever hired, period.”

    Though the company’s insurance adjusting division is still in its infancy, launching less than two years ago, it’s grown this year, with the firm picking up some clients from the hurricane-affected areas it serves. However, Farmer says the company is not quite as busy adjusting claims as one might expect, considering the majority of its insurance clients live in Texas and Florida.

    Still, over the past couple of months, The Workforce Group has adjusted roughly 700 claims tied to either Hurricanes Sally or Laura, and Farmer says he hopes to expand the area of business, along with its IT division, in the coming years.