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Last week marked the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s annihilation of the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts.  This same region is also attempting, along with other states in the Gulf region, to pick up the pieces after a summer of oil coated beaches and a lack of tourists.  How can two catastrophic events, so close in time historically speaking, recoup and rebuild?  A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder says that while it’s a slow – and painful – process, the people of the coastal region are doing what they do best:  moving forward with determination and commitment.

Retired Lieutenant General Russell Honore, who led the clean up efforts in the New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina, said, “This area has been hit with two of the largest disasters in recorded history in the United States and you had just seen people start to get some hope back”.  While it’s true that ninety percent of the population had returned to the New Orleans area, the jobs had yet to come close to pre-Katrina numbers.  The recession played a role in the low numbers, says A. Harrison Barnes, but it only further complicated a near impossible scenario.

Along the coast in the summer of 2005, the unemployment numbers were generally below the national average, including the city of New Orleans, says the founder.  Following Katrina’s landfall, those numbers rose quickly to 15% and higher.  No tourists due to the BP crisis was yet one more kick the residents weren’t prepared for.  Then came the announcement, that nearly coincided perfectly with the BP explosion, from the Pascagoula, MS Northrop Grumman shipyard.  It was preparing to lay off close to 600 of its 11,000 employees before the end of 2010.  One more hard knock.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced in late August, 2010, that $1.8 billion dollars would be made available to rebuild New Orleans’ schools.  That’s impressive, says some Texas and Florida residents who feel they’ve been let down.  Many forget Hurricane Rita’s landfall shortly after Katrina.  Rita’s Texas destruction was easily overshadowed by busted levees and annihilated lives in Louisiana and Mississippi.  Not only that, but Hurricane Katrina first made landfall in southern Florida.   Some state leaders in both Texas and Florida say that while New Orleans suffered greatly, they weren’t the only ones.  Jobs are scarce in their states as well.

Oil and water doesn’t mix, but as one Alabama shrimper said, “What’s the alternative?  Give up?  Not us.  Not ever”.  Those sentiments are indicative of the spirit of coastal residents, says A. Harrison Barnes.  That determination just might be what saves a region that’s had its fair share of environmental disasters in the past sixty months.

The job market will improve, and in fact, signs all along Highway 90 tell the tale of a region that’s not ready to give up, even if it means starting at the bottom once again.

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