A Gulf Coast disaster is once again creating new jobs and new business for a Tacoma company.
Tacoma Tent & Awning Co., which saw its business grow quickly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation five years ago, is now building thousands of feet of oil-containment booms needed to keep the crude still spewing from a runaway Gulf of Mexico well from spreading to more beaches, inlets and marinas on the Gulf Coast.
The company has hired three new crews to build the yellow and red vinyl booms at the tent and awning company’s Stadium District plant. And Tacoma Tent President Scott Sutherland is considering adding another shift of workers to keep up with the demand.
The company constructs commercial and residential awnings, tarps and coverings for industrial customers such as The Boeing Co. and a line of large tents sold nationwide. Those tents are used at weddings, corporate gatherings and commercial events. Tacoma Tent and Awning’s tents, for instance, were used at the recent U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach in California.
Tacoma Tent also saw a surge in business last fall and winter in preparation for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where its tents were used for temporary shelter at some of the Olympics’ multiple venues.
Sutherland said the oil boom business came to him.
One of Sutherland’s vinyl suppliers told him several weeks ago that oil spill response contractors working for the well’s owner, BP, were looking for additional sources of the booms.
He told his supplier he would be interested but only if the orders for new booms were large enough that he could recover the cost of setting up a new production line. Sutherland didn’t want to see his regular customers’ deliveries interrupted because of the surge of new business.
A representative from the oil spill response company called on Sutherland the next day and assured him that the demand, unfortunately for coastal residents, could be large and ongoing. By then, he said, stockpiled containment booms had already been used, and the normal boom makers couldn’t produce booms quickly enough to meet the demands.