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Bay area businesses work around disruptions

A few find operations hindered by the effects of the terror attacks. Some take the opportunity to help others.

By DAVE GUSSOW

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001


Tampa Bay area businesses tried to return to normal Wednesday, but they couldn't ignore the aftershocks of Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

With the stock markets closed, the staff at Raymond James Financial used the time to catch up on paperwork and take calls from clients. Tech Data Corp. tried to figure out alternative shipping methods as airlines were grounded for a second day.

And Catalina Marketing Corp. started programs to help employees and the Red Cross.

* * *

Many people at St. Petersburg-based Raymond James have friends or business acquaintances in New York's financial district, and waiting for news about them made for a somber atmosphere.

"We're holding our breath," spokesman Larry Silver said. "There's not much you can do, one way or another. There's not a lot of joviality."

Three of his staff members have relatives who worked at the World Trade Center, Silver said. One made it out of the building, and two others were not there when the towers were attacked.

Raymond James moved its New York offices out of the center about a year ago. It still had an office 200 yards from the center, but that office was safely evacuated after the first explosion.

The financial services company was trying to make travel arrangements for employees stranded across the country by the airline shutdown.

"We're working as normally as we can," Silver said.

* * *

As a distributor of technology equipment, Tech Data Clearwater relies on speedy transportation, particularly by the airlines, for its business.

"A reasonable percentage of what we sell is shipped out via air carriers, which of course are all grounded," chief executive Steve Raymund said. "Some of those products that were shipped prior to (Tuesday) will have a hard time arriving for a while."

The company extended hours and services for ground deliveries, including dedicated runs to make deliveries as needed. But time is crucial in delivering parts in the technology business.

Most original equipment manufacturers and users of microprocessors "manage their supply on a just-in-time delivery basis," Raymund said. The problem could cause short-term disruptions for some companies, particularly international customers.

Raymund said only a small number of Tech Data employees, mainly in its New Jersey facility, had relatives or friends affected by the attacks. But others were sure to feel some impact.

"I have business acquaintances that work there," he said. "I'm still trying to track down a Merrill (Lynch) investment team that follows us. So far, I've not had any luck."

* * *

Catalina Marketing in St. Petersburg sent its employees home early Tuesday and canceled all employee travel until at least Monday.

But it reopened Wednesday with a plan to help employees and the Red Cross, according to Jerry Groe, senior vice president of human resources. The company reminded employees that counseling was available for those who wanted it, encouraged supervisors to "walk and talk" more with the staff this week, and highlighted a family-first approach for employees.

"We do recognize that given the situation, we will have to be flexible in allowing our employees to deal with disruption of child care, school or other support systems," Groe said.

The company also decided to help in other ways: It donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross, encouraged its 1,400 employees nationwide to consider personal donations and held a raffle of Bucs tickets, with proceeds going to the Red Cross.

It's also coordinating a blood drive at the Carillon office park with other businesses there.

"It's employee-driven," Groe said. "'We've had many employees asking how they can help."

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