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RAC on fast track to rebuild Coast schools, casinos

Gulfport — The fast-track rebuilding required on the Gulf Coast post- Hurricane Katrina is nothing new for the Roy Anderson Corp. The Gulfport-based construction company worked 24/7 to build the area’s first casino, Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, in just 76 days. Those were boom days in the early 1990s and things haven’t slowed down for this fast-growing company licensed to work in 14 states.

“Up until the Casino Magic Bay St. Louis job, the company has mostly built commercial and military projects,” said director of marketing Gina Dambrino. “We did a lot of work for Keesler Air Force Base and the SeaBee Base and built the original Edgewater Mall and First Baptist Church in Gulfport among others.”

After the company’s successful and fast completion of its first casino project, she says numerous other casinos wanted the local contractor to build their casinos. Things really took off with the building of the Palace, Boomtown, Treasure Bay, the two Grands, Casino Magic Biloxi, part of the Copa, the garage at the Isle of Capri on the Coast and several casinos in Tunica.

Most recently the Roy Anderson Corp. built the lavish Hard Rock Casino and hotel in Biloxi that was scheduled to open the week the hurricane struck. “The hotel and garage fared pretty well but we are already rebuilding the casino and it’s being built on concrete pilings,” Dambrino said.

The internationally acclaimed Hard Rock cafes are known for their priceless musical artifacts. Dambrino said the Biloxi Hard Rock lost only one item from its $3.8-million collection of artifacts. The memorabilia was packed up and sent to headquarters in Orlando, Fla., for safekeeping.

In addition to several condominiums being built in Florida and Alabama, the Roy Anderson Corp. is doing a ton of other hurricane repairs, too. Those include schools for the districts of Gulfport, Pass Christian, Hancock County and Bay St. Louis. Casino repairs are being done for Casino Magic Bay St. Louis, Biloxi Grand, Boomtown and Imperial Palace.

Additionally, work is being done on the 15-story Hancock Bank Building that sustained major damage and to Memorial Hospital where the construction company was already building an expansion.

“We are in need of workers and are hiring daily,” Dambrino said. “We are open and welcoming new employees.” The company has around 500 full-time employees, but that number varies according to project load.

An adequate labor force is just one of the challenges of construction work on the Coast these days. Senior project manager Steven Linton said, “The impact from Hurricane Katrina, and even Hurricane Rita, has resulted in as much as a 25% (cost) increase in some materials and supplies.

Additionally, some items may be put on allotment, further restricting availability. Labor suppliers and worker housing is as large of a barrier as materials.”

Emotions are involved, too. “People are devastated, and we’re all dealing with our own personal issues,” Dambrino said. “Twenty of our employees lost their homes and many others have family members who did.”

She noted that Roy Anderson Corp. is based in Gulfport for the long haul. “This is our town and we’ll be a part of rebuilding it,” she said. “We’ve got to get our community up and going.”

The company’s headquarters on Reinhold Road near the Bayou Bernard Industrial area had water and roof damage and some tool trailers were flipped upside down. The offices opened with a skeleton crew the next day after the storm and had their computers up two days later. With the challenges of slow traffic and lack of open restaurants, president and CEO Roy Anderson III, is providing lunch for everyone, including sending box lunches to construction crews.

“The devastation of Katrina will be a true test for our Gulf Coast municipalities, state agencies and Federal government to work together in a concerted partnership to rebuild and shape the vision for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Anderson said. “With any tragedy, there will be opportunities to pursue that will hopefully improve the quality of life and economic standards along the entire Gulf South region. The will of our Gulf Coast residents and the unselfish deeds of thousands of caring people will be forever remembered.”

On the job for one year, executive vice president and chief operating officer Bob Gist experienced his first hurricane but is committed to leading the company’s efforts of rebuilding the area. “Planning and momentum for returning the grandeur of the Mississippi Gulf Cost are well underway and will provide an exciting and bright future for us all,” he said.

Roy Anderson Jr. started Roy Anderson Corp. in 1955, after serving as a pilot during the Korean War. The Georgia Tech engineering graduate said he had a commitment to bring superior quality construction to the Gulf South. Today, he feels he has achieved that goal as the company is recognized as one of the premier construction firms in the region. Working all over the Southeast United States, the company has thousands of successful projects to its credit.

Katrina marks the second time the Roy Anderson Corp. has had an unwelcome lady wreck havoc on many of its construction projects. The company and the Gulf area rebuilt after Camille visited in 1969. They pride themselves on being recognized as one of the largest and most dependable building contractors in the country and they’re not about to let these uninvited ladies stop them from maintaining that tradition.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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