Commerce Dept. Sends $20 Million Our Way

A more than $20 million dollar boost is headed to the Houston region for Hurricane Ike recovery. The Department of Commerce awarded two grants to help businesses get back on their feet. Laurie Johnson reports.
Close to 80 percent of the business community in Galveston was devastated by Hurricane Ike, resulting in massive layoffs.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the grants intended to strengthen the business community.

"And of course, if they're strong and viable they'll hire people offering good family-wage jobs. And both the companies and the employees pay taxes that support the schools, fire, police, parks and social services and also donate to non-profit organizations. So we really feel this is very, very important in helping the communities get back on their feet, getting businesses back on their feet all with the objective of hiring people and providing family-wage jobs."

The Port of Galveston will get $10 million. Port Director Steve Cernak says that'll fund about 275 new jobs and help repair a lot of the structural damage caused by the hurricane.

"A lot of the dock structures collapsed when the water receded. So what we're going to be able to do is build a new berth that'll be able to handle additional vessels and fill in the old slip areas and create additional upland to handle cargo, which we are finding we need space for these days."

Those upgrades will also garner about $12 million in private investments from the Del Monte company, which plans to build a new warehouse after the dock is completed.

Secretary Locke says another $10 million will establish something called the Gulf Coast Revolving Loan Fund.

"Which will actually provide assistance to businesses in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and Gustav. This will provide them some of the financing that they need to recuperate. Then we also have a $900,000 grant that will help with disaster response, recovery and planning."

That money will be administered by the Gulf Coast Economic Development District here in Houston, part of the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...