Clayton Group Services

Specialty: Environmental services and occupational and health safety
2001 revenues: N/A
Projected 2002 revenues: N/A
Location: Seattle and 20 other cities nationwide

Mold is gold.

At least it was for one Texas woman. She who won a $32 million judgment against the contractor who built her mansion after mold in her new home made her ill.

In the wake of that case, more and more buyers and sellers of buildings are turning to companies such as Clayton Group Services to inspect for mold and plan and manage whatever actions are necessary to eliminate it.

“She got such a large settlement that everybody went, ‘Whoa!’” said Akos Fekete, manager of environmental services for the Seattle office of the Clayton Group.

The growing amount of mold work the Clayton Group performs mirrors its experience with asbestos — with one exception “There are no regulatory drivers [for mold] as there are with asbestos,” said Fekete.

Five of the 40 employees in the Clayton Group’s Seattle office work in environmental services. The rest are involved with occupational and health safety services or work in the lab.

Fekete said the Clayton Group is a relatively small player in the region’s environmental services market. Much of the firm’s business involves supporting commercial real estate transactions by satisfying the environmental concerns of lenders. It surveys properties for environmental problems, devises remedies and oversees cleanups.

Sept. 11 hit the Clayton Group hard, said Fekete, as many real estate buyers and sellers put their deals on hold. “It was very slow in the winter, but we seem to be climbing out of the hole slowly but surely,” he said. “Our California office is really, really busy. We’re lagging a little bit in Seattle.”

Right now, said Fekete, “I’m seeing a ton of asbestos work out there.” In the near future, he also expects to see more storm water work as state regulations are expanding to cover a wider range of businesses.

Another potential stimulus is coming from the insurance industry, which has begun offering policies that protect people against cost overruns caused by encountering unexpected problems during a cleanup. Fekete suspects the availability of such insurance may prompt more people to launch cleanups, creating more opportunities for environmental services providers.

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