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Corey Pitts took a moment to assess the insurmountable devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region this summer. As he stood in a heavily soiled hotel lobby in New Orleans, he says it took every ounce of his strength not to become overwhelmed by the damage. He knew that despite the lives that were lost, the homes that were destroyed, and the residents who were displaced he still had a job to do.
Pitts, 36, a native of Smyrna, Georgia, is president and CEO of International Catastrophe Solutions, a disaster recovery company that specializes in fire and water restoration, dehumidification, mold remediation, and soot and asbestos removal. Pitts and ICS technicians were in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi immediately after Katrina hit to help commercial enterprises, including several hotels, clean up their properties. ICS dried out, cleaned, and sanitized hotels so that aid workers, police officers, government officials, members of the press, and soldiers had a place to stay during the arduous clean-up and rebuilding efforts.
“It’s amazing to see how that hurricane shut down whole cities,” says Pitts. “When you think about it, you can become emotional. It’s very disturbing to realize people have lost everything. We have to make sure these people have some place to stay. We also have to get these businesses up and running again.”
In the ’90s, Pitts was working as a computer operator when, fearing corporate downsizing, he decided to clean carpets to generate extra income. He started PJ Services, a residential carpet and upholstery cleaning business with his wife’s pickup truck, used equipment he purchased from his father, $50 in cash, and a credit card with an $800 limit.
In 2000, he decided he wanted commercial clients as well. He applied for a loan to buy new equipment at a bank that had been a PJ Services client. Pitts got the loan, purchased better equipment to handle larger jobs, and formed ICS. He incorporated the company in 2003.
“Whenever I got a check, I reinvested in my company,” says Pitts. “I only lived off of what I needed to pay my bills.” ICS currently occupies a 30,000-square-foot facility, operates a mobile emergency response unit, and has serviced or partnered with Marriott, Radisson, Crowne Plaza, Sheraton, and Holiday Inn hotels and resorts. Last year, the 75-employee company posted $10 million in revenues and expects between $20 and $30 million in 2005.
Pitts expects to be in the Gulf Coast region for at least nine months to complete his work. In the meantime, ICS is aiding hurricane victims by offering employment. “The goal is to continue to grow,” says Pitts. “You never know when the next disaster will strike. You just have to position yourself for when it happens.”
International Catastrophe Solutions; 4000 Wendell Drive, Atlanta, GA 30336; 800-883-3965; www.intlcat.com