SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 9 - A slowing of reconstruction work in Iraq has freed up people for Fluor Corp. to begin rebuilding in the U.S. Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina, the big engineering and construction company's chairman and chief executive said on Friday.
"Our rebuilding work in Iraq is slowing down and this has made some people available to respond to our work in Louisiana," Fluor chief Alan Boeckmann said in a telephone interview.
The Iraq reconstruction work by U.S. and international companies has slowed as resources shifted to security projects in the war-torn country.
Fluor, which has about 400 people on the job in Louisiana and Mississippi and will add more, is procuring mobile homes and prefab housing from manufacturers all over the United States under existing supply agreements, Boeckmann said.
"We have developed an extensive subcontracting system on a global basis and that enables us to swing into action at a moment's notice," he said.
Fluor's senior project manager in Iraq is now in Louisiana and a dozen senior officers of the company are focused on the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort, he said.
Iraq projects to rebuild electricity and water systems and other key infrastructure have been slowed down or canceled as more U.S. and international donor funds for reconstruction are shifted to security, according to U.S. government reports.
In the Gulf Coast, local craftsmen, contractors and the unemployed can contact Fluor at its emergency base in Baton Rouge and also on the company's Web site (www.fluor.com), Boeckmann said.
Fluor also is setting up training programs in Louisiana.
Fluor and Louisiana-based Shaw Group <SGR.N> said on Thursday they have received $100 million emergency contracts from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency for housing management and construction, part of a broad effort to house Katrina's evacuees while shattered cities like New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi, are cleaned up and rebuilt.
Shaw Group also got a $100 million order on Friday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help recovery and rebuilding jobs.
FEMA also awarded contracts to CH2M Hill, of Denver, Dewberry Technologies, of Fairfax, Virginia, and the Bechtel National Inc. unit of San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp.
Halliburton Co.'s <HAL.N> Kellogg Brown & Root Services unit in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday received $29.8 million in Pentagon contracts for rebuilding jobs at Navy bases in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Fluor is heading up operations for a new Housing Area Command set up by FEMA and is working with ESS Compass Group, which specializes in housing, catering and support services, and other subcontractors to take on the rebuilding.
"We're leasing empty fields from farmers, back lots of shopping centers and other open areas and we have to have power, sewage and water services," Boeckmann told Reuters.
Asked if Fluor was concerned about reports that some top FEMA officials had little experience in handling disasters, Boeckmann said Fluor "has worked well with FEMA and we have a lot of confidence in the agency."
Boeckmann said "the scope of the (Gulf Coast) tragedy is hard to fathom."
Fluor, based in Aliso Viejo, California, has worked with FEMA for eight years on emergency reconstruction programs in Florida, California and elsewhere following floods, fires and earthquakes, he said.
FEMA director Michael Brown, who has been harshly criticized over the relief efforts, was replaced as head of emergency operations in the Gulf Coast on Friday.
- 174 War & Disaster Profiteers Campaign