Contractors are competing for multimillion-dollar local government contracts to clean up the damage following Hurricane Ian's dreadful wake. The total cost of rebuilding homes, businesses, and infrastructure are worth tens of millions of tax dollars in government contracts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gives local governments direct payments if they clean up storm-related debris within 60 days of the storm, providing significant incentives for construction contractors to approach county officials and act quickly.

FEMA has already provided more than $1.5 billion in federal grants, disaster loans, and flood insurance payments for storm recovery efforts.

Hurricane Ian battered a shrimp boat tied on at a Fort Myers Beach dock
Damage From Hurricane Ian, Fort Myers, Florida (AP) Reuters

According to the Associated Press, the bidding process was swift and competitive before, during, and after the storm. Some contractors had placed bids even before the category four storm hit Florida. Others, such as Crowder-Gulf Joint Venture had their bid approved only days after Ian made landfall.

The federal government is already reimbursing some contractors for removing wreckage from private and commercial property. FEMA has also made a deal with Florida to accept ineligible waivers for reimbursements, such as repairing damage to concrete slabs or removing certain types of debris from private property.

Lee County, Florida, is one of the main areas where government contracts are lucrative for construction companies. The area sustained enormous damage. County officials said removing boats scattered onto land and rebuilding destroyed homes would take months to clear, so they are expanding the scope of already approved contracts without taking more bids.

County Manager Roger Desjarlais recently dismissed complaints from competing contractors about upfront costs and expanding existing contracts. He said vendors will try to "muddy the waters" with disaster politics and slow the reconstruction process.

There has also been a lack of skilled workers to staff specific rebuilding projects.

Ken Simonson, the chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America, told Construction Dive, "Owners must decide if the location and the local economy still warrant living or operating a business in that structure, especially if insurance or other costs change."

Simonson said demand would only increase after construction companies get their bids approved, as there are more positions available than the amount of construction workers required to fill them.