FEMA Office Boosts Business in Town

FEMA employees temporarily headquartered at Blythewood’s CSC building order lunch from Scottie’s Café food truck, one of several Blythewood businesses enjoying a boon in business while FEMA is in town. FEMA employees Paul Peterson of Connecticut, left, and Marcie Roth of Washington, D.C., purchase lunch from Scottie’s server Melissa Letrick. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

FEMA employees temporarily headquartered at Blythewood’s CSC building order lunch from Scottie’s Café food truck, one of several Blythewood businesses enjoying a boost in business while FEMA is in town. FEMA employees Paul Peterson of Connecticut, left, and Marcie Roth of Washington, D.C., purchase lunch from Scottie’s server Melissa Letrick. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

BLYTHEWOOD (Oct. 29, 2015) – While severe flooding in South Carolina brought death and devastation to many parts of the state, the aftermath of recovery and rebuilding is bringing business to Blythewood. That business is the result of FEMA setting up its temporary joint field office for the entire state in Blythewood’s CSC building on Oct. 12.

After searching the state for a location with proximity to the state government offices and enough space to house 700 employees and access to major transportation arteries, nearby hotels, restaurants and other services, the mega emergency management agency settled on Blythewood.

Marcie Roth of Washington, D.C., and a member of the team scouting potential locations for FEMA, said Blythewood offered everything it was looking for.

“We work through the General Services Administration to find appropriate locations and sometimes have to set up in shopping malls, vacant Wal-Mart stores and even in tents. This is the perfect location and we have this great facility,” she said, motioning toward the CSC building and its surrounding landscaped campus. “It has ample parking and plenty of space inside for internal training. It doesn’t have a cafeteria, but that’s OK. We have Scotties.”

Scotties’ Café food truck and a number of others pull up to the building six days a week serving breakfast, lunch and snacks.

“It’s been big business for us,” said Scott Opolyn, owner of Scotties’ Cafe whose staff serves breakfast, lunch and about 20 gallons of coffee a day to FEMA employees at the CSC location.

And he’s not the only one benefiting from the new businesses in town. The hotels and other restaurants in town are also seeing an uptick in business from the FEMA presence. Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross said the town is happy that FEMA chose Blythewood for its temporary headquarters.

“We love having them here, and we want to accommodate them in any way we can. It’s our goal that they enjoy their stay here in town while they do this very important work to help our state and citizens put their lives back in order,” Ross said.

The FEMA field office is a state and federally coordinated operation that supports the recovery effort throughout the state in the counties where the president has declared disaster areas.

“FEMA is a funding organization,” Harry Skinner, an external affairs employee at the CSC location explained. “But this location is not where people can come to get individual help,” he emphasized. “We do not work directly with flood survivors. We have 22 different locations in the state where flood survivors can go for individual assistance. Our employees, at this location, provide overall management of FEMA’s disaster recovery efforts for the whole state.

“Our Operation here at CSC,” Skinner said, “is pretty much self-sufficient. We’ve brought with us all the usual departments a large company has such as IT, logistics, human resources, planning, finance and administration, accounting and staffing, all in one location. Plus,” he added, “we provide program support staff for individual assistance, public assistance and mitigation efforts out in the field.”

Skinner said FEMA’s field office has no timeline for how long it will be in operation in Blythewood. Asked if it could be months, he said, “As long as it takes. As we move ahead our footprint here will be reduced based on the needs of the state. We are very happy to be here in Blythewood. This location seems to be handling our needs very well,” Skinner said. “Our employees have felt warmly welcomed by Blythewood and by all of South Carolina.”