At Calidad's April 6 open house, Alfredo Domnech (left) and Efrain Torres of Aircare Technology in Puerto Rico, watch Scott Husbands with Engel Industries demonstrate a Pittsburgh seam closer.


POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - Flying into Florida's fabled Gold Coast - named for the treasure-filled sunken ships offshore - you might think the region should be called the Blue Coast.

Seven months after being battered by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, blue plastic tarps still cover the many wind-damaged roofs of lavish waterfront homes and nearby businesses.

You won't find a blue tarp on the 6,500-square-foot building that houses sheet metal products distributor Calidad Machinery & Equipment Inc. However, its roof, which owner Eric Kuschel said cost $22,000, is considered temporary. Like so many other businesses in the region, Calidad's offices and warehouse suffered substantial water damage from the storm.

Eric Kuschel, owner of Calidad Machinery & Equipment in Pompano Beach, Fla., said Hurricane Wilma hit his business hard. However, all the rebuilding in the region since the October 2005 storm has been a boon for the company, he adds.

But with contractors eager to buy equipment and begin rebuilding the battered region, more permanent repairs may have to wait because Kuschel has been busy selling sheet metal equipment such as press brakes and plasma-cutting tables.

"It's sad but true: devastation is profit," he said from his office, where water damage can still be seen on the walls. "It created a lot of business because of all the roof damage."

Kuschel estimates Calidad suffered $92,000 in damage. In addition to losing the roof, the building had no power for two weeks, and the garage-style doors that covered the building's exterior were blown in.

"There was 6 to 8 inches of water in here," Kuschel added. "It took us a week just to clean up."

Fortunately, Kuschel had shrink-wrapped much of the equipment before the storms, preventing the worst water damage.

Kuschel spent $5,000 buying generators for his business and employees' homes. His own home suffered more than $20,000 in damage.

"I can relate to the guys in New Orleans," he said.

But by November, Calidad was back, just as contractors looking for work were moving into the state. At an April 5-6 open house, customers included a contractor who had moved from New Jersey to south Florida, as well as one based in Puerto Rico. A number of Calidad's customers come from Latin America.