Ask an average American what comes to mind when they think about New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina is likely to be mentioned. But the tragic images associated with the 2005 hurricane have already given way to a new reality, note long-time residents such as Nicholas Hebert, a Cornwell Quality Tools dealer who credits a growing economy with helping him prosper in mobile tool sales. “People (mistakenly) think the city’s still underwater,” Hebert says.
For the 32-year-old Hebert, the city’s rebirth since Hurricane Katrina has been nearly miraculous. While the Hurricane took its toll on the city, the reconstruction of much of the city brought a surge of business that shows no signs of slowing. He thinks New Orleans’ economy today is better than prior to Hurricane Katrina.
Hebert launched a Cornwell dealership about one year ago and was successful from the very beginning. He was aware of the opportunity to be a tool dealer from his previous role as a technician for a BMW dealership. After 13 years working as a technician, he was looking for an opportunity to increase his income. He had saved enough money to pay for his starting inventory and he leased an 18-foot truck he found on a vehicle website.
Hebert’s district manager gave him a list of stops to visit. When he began his Cornwell business, there hadn’t been a Cornwell truck in much of the city for more than 10 years. Hebert claims he was welcomed with open arms by the automotive repair shops. Some shop owners and technicians stopped him on the street when they saw his truck and asked him to come to their shops.
In his first week, Hebert’s sales surpassed his “break-even” goal by $1,000. He found he was able to create a lot of goodwill among customers by making sure he kept visiting them according to schedule. If he can’t make a scheduled visit, he makes it a point to text the customers ahead of time.
Oil and gas-related businesses have been expanding in New Orleans, he notes. Energy related companies have been among some of his best customers. These include oil, natural gas and diesel rigs as well as boats that supply the rigs. “You name it, we’ve got it down here,” Hebert says.
“When that stuff breaks, it has to be fixed,” Hebert adds. “They (the repair crews) are on a tight deadline.”
The tourism and convention industries have also been on a growth curve, he adds.
The future looks promising since the New Orleans port, convention center and a Veterans Administration hospital are all expanding, Hebert says.
Bad weather continues to affect the area periodically, but for Hebert, weather problems don’t necessarily mean less business. He recalls severe hail storms last March that interrupted peoples’ daily activities. For Hebert, the hail damage made body shops busier, which in turn helped his tool sales.
Hebert thinks he has found his niche in mobile tool sales. The job has allowed him to provide a better life for himself, his wife and his two young children. “I don’t regret it one bit,” he says.