First-Hand Accounts of Hurricane Harvey & Its Economic Impact on the Furniture Market

Top Quote We interviewed Formaspace CEO and Texsar Search & Rescue Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Jeff Turk and Regional VP of Hertz Furniture, Daniel Goldfein. Read their first-hand Hurricane Harvey experiences and their projections of the economic impact on the furniture market. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) October 27, 2017 - Communities along the coast of Texas, from Corpus Christi in the west to Beaumont in the east were devastated by Hurricane Harveyís storm winds and subsequent unprecedented flooding. We spoke with Jeff Turk, Formaspaceís CEO, and Daniel Goldfine, Regional VP of Sales at Hertz Furniture, about their first-hand experiences on the ground during the storm as well as their predictions about the effect on the US economy (particularly the furniture market) as Texas recovers.

    Itís nice to speak with you, Jeff. We know you saw the dangerous impact of Hurricane Harvey from the air, from the water and from the ground. Tell our readers your story.

    The day Hurricane Harvey was to make landfall, I was at Northwestern University outside Chicago giving a lecture on entrepreneurism. The instant the event concluded we rushed to the Formaspace plane to fly back to Texas. We needed to get back quickly because Iím the aviation branch director for Texas Search and Rescue (TEXSAR), an all-volunteer search and rescue team and I knew weíd be deployed to help in the aftermath of the storm.

    With the high winds, we couldnít land in Austin or at the surrounding airports, so we landed closer to Waco. I drove a truck down toward Corpus Christi (my hometown) to join up with the TEXSAR team deployed to Port Aransas where Harvey made landfall. But then I found out we were redeployed to do swift water rescues in the flooded Dickinson Bayou, south of Houston in Galveston County. (Iím also a swift water rescue technician and rescue diver.) I met up with my TEXSAR convoy an hour outside of Houston at a gas station. To give you an idea of the volatile weather conditions, a tornado took out that gas station where we met not one hour later.

    We spent the first afternoon and evening in the water doing difficult extractions in Dickinson, mostly non-ambulatory patients in significant distress. Twenty-six of us spent two nights sleeping in a large closet at the Galveston County OEM (Office of Emergency Management). I got fifteen minutes of sleep the first night and four hours and fifteen minutes the second night. The third night I saw the tanks and APCs roll into Friendswood. That night I slept in the Friendswood jail.

    Iíve never driven over more power lines, run more red lights (we call it running code Ė lights and sirens), or spent more of my day wet and utterly exhausted than I did in those few days. I hardly took my wet-suit off for four days. Thereís a kind of cold that seeps into your bones when you are wet day and night, cycle after cycle.

    Hurricanes and floodwaters can be terrifying. What was your impression of Hurricane Harvey? How does this rescue work affect you personally?

    All hurricanes are surreal experiences. I rode out Category Five Hurricane Allen in 1980, which was one of the most powerful storms in recorded history. Iíve been in others since. Itís interesting to see wind toss yachts like playthings, drive water into light bulbs, and turn simple wood splinters into bullets.

    I didnít see quite as much of that (e.g. wind damage) in this storm as in others. This storm did more flood damage because it sat and dumped fifty inches of rain on the fourth largest city in the United States. It was interesting to drive boats down city streets. Most of my water rescues over the years have been on rivers, not in subdivisions.

    When you save human lives and fail to save others, you re-emerge from the storm with a different perspective on life. Life is ephemeral. These events are ugly and beautiful, horrific and hilarious, and often, just absurd. I respect the fact that we are here only briefly and always go home to hug my family.

    Beyond the hurricane, several times a year Iím called out to perform a rescue in the helicopter in the middle of the business day. The helicopter is six minutes from the office. So I sometimes have the opportunity to literally save a human life and hear a client self-righteously demand a free expedite the same day. Itís a bizarre kind of privilege.

    Thatís an incredible story, Jeff. After flooding in Houston, Harvey moved east from Houston to devastate the region surrounding Beaumont and Port Arthur in East Texas.

    Thatís right. After flooding Houston for days on end, the storm moved east. But there was no way for us (the TEXSAR convoy) to get to Port Arthur as the bridges and roads, including the major east-west interstate, I-10, were all underwater, damaged, or destroyed.

    Then, to top it off, Hurricane Irma was devastating the Caribbean and was threatening the Florida Key and the Florida peninsula. TEXSAR was also called up to assist in Miami, but when the track of the storm shifted west, they canceled that request before I departed for Florida.

    What about Houstonís infrastructure? Thereís been a lot of talk about how things need to be done differently in the future. Whatís your opinion on how things should be rebuilt?

    At a policy level, itís quite obvious to me that we shouldnít be building houses on floodplains. As I think of all the victims whose remains Iíve recovered over the years, I canít think of a single one who needed to die. To me, every single one of them represents a failure of our government ó a warning not given, inadequate public education, mental healthcare not provided, a bridge built too low, a low water crossing sign not erected, a building permit issued for houses to be built on the floodplain. I have learned that in politics and government, there is a tremendous diversity in terms of concern for human life.

    What about the economic impacts both nationally and at the state level? What effect does a major storm like Hurricane Harvey have on the furniture business, both in the short and long-term?

    For Formaspace specifically, we are, in part, an online business. As soon as any major weather system approaches part of the country, searches for capital goods like furniture drop like a rock. Of course, the interest in our products for that part of the country will drop to zero during and immediately following the event. And then, maybe a year later, we might win a furniture order where a lab or office was damaged or destroyed.

    As far as Texas overall goes, it is going to have a negative short-term impact. The fourth largest city in the country is still partly underwater. There is no power in some places. Whole school districts are closed for the remainder of the school year. However, in the long term, the infrastructure will all be rebuilt, probably a little better than before. The economic theory for this part of the world is that the economic cost major storms are, in the long run, more or less neutral.

    Recovery will happen in fits and starts. Some places have already reopened, while others will never be rebuilt. Some industries will have a boom, while others will struggle to recover. I tell you what though, you have to give a lot of credit to the citizens of the State of Texas. I saw homeowners ripping the carpets out of their houses and cutting drywall back before the water had even fully receded. Talk about grit. You have to respect that.

    Here at Formaspace, weíre going to give priority to disaster areas to get furniture products out to them faster; weíre also giving discounts to clients who were impacted by the storms. We may include a few services we normally charge for, such as on-site project management. Clients can also ask us about mobile lab options and other disaster recovery services. There is no other company better positioned or more knowledgeable about disaster recovery. After all, weíve already been there.

    Are there plans to help victims in the US or the Caribbean hit by the other hurricanes this season?

    We will extend every manner of support possible to every disaster area, including Puerto Rico and affected areas of the Caribbean. Again, weíve been there.

    Iíd also like to encourage everyone to help in the way that you can. If you canít physically go and help, money is the best way to give. A reputable non-profit organization, at a bare minimum, should devote 80% of funding directly to operations: Last year TEXSAR was at 92%. There are organizations like TEXSAR that use your money extremely efficiently and put it to immediate use. Unfortunately, there are some large, national organizations that pass on less money to those in need compared to other, more efficient organizations. I recommend you check the website Guidestar to see independent ratings for charitable organizations before making a decision on where to give.

    Are there any Formaspace customers in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey we can talk to?

    Thatís a good idea. Iíll put you in contact with several Formaspace dealers in the region that might have time to talk with you.

    Great. Thank you for speaking with us Jeff.

    In the second part of this interview we contacted Daniel Goldfine, who is the Vice President of Sales Ė South Central Region at Hertz Furniture in Houston, to get his perspective on how Houstonians responded to the storm ó before, during, and after ó as well as the economic aftermath of the recovery.

    Hello, Daniel. Weíve just interviewed Jeff Turk, the CEO of Formaspace, about his experiences rescuing flood victims during Hurricane Harvey. He suggested we call you to get your personal perspective on how the storm affected you, your family, and the Houston community, as well as to find out your take on the economic impact on the furniture industry now that we are in the recovery phase.

    First of all, where were you when Hurricane Harvey was churning around in the Gulf of Mexico?

    Read more ...

  • FB Icon Twitter Icon In-Icon
Contact Information