Christine McAtee hopes to go back to New Orleans some day, but for the foreseeable future, The Woodlands, Texas, is where she’ll live and run her marketing firm.
McAtee, owner of Adventures in Advertising/Insignia Marketing, is one of thousands of small business owners forced to leave the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and start over someplace else.
The storm left water in McAtee’s home and her office, but the dampness that pervaded everything was just as destructive, damaging files and leaving computers inoperable. And with the city paralyzed, it was clear it would be hard for McAtee to rebuild her company and take care of her two children.
There were awful moments as she salvaged what she could: “You think, this can’t be happening, when you slip and fall in the grime and you’re covered with who knows what and there’s no running water to wash it off with.”
And outside her office, it was catastrophic.
“There weren’t a lot of people around. I looked around and thought I was deathly scared to lose the business I’d built all those years,” she said.
For Greg Mangiaracina, the move from New Orleans to San Antonio is permanent. After seeing how the storm had unsettled his family, the safety of his wife and children became paramount.
Like McAtee, Mangiaracina, owner of APro Home Inspection Services, knew he had to act quickly to save the business. The problem he faced was the destruction of the city’s infrastructure – his business includes running training programs for franchisees from around the country and without a functioning airport and tourism industry, he couldn’t get people to come to New Orleans.
Mangiaracina said he knew he could survive – “I could go back to New Orleans and be in an engineering firm” – but he felt a responsibility to the 120 franchisees in his system, so he knew he needed to move.
He had a Sept. 30 deadline for getting a new training facility set up somewhere else, as he had a class scheduled then. So he chose San Antonio: “I was looking for a place relatively free of natural disasters, a large city that had easy access to around the country. I needed a place that had good tourism.