Before the crash, Booth was the owner of Advantage Construction, a White Plains-based homebuilding contractor. These days, he calls his company Advantage Construction and Energy Solutions. He’s marketing himself as the guy who can make your house more energy-efficient, saving you money.
“As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of new home construction right now,” he said. “The work we get is mostly remodeling and work to make houses more energy-efficient.”
Booth is always on the lookout for work that contractors can still do, even in a slow economy. He recently started an enterprise that would seem to be marketable in Anniston, but so far, it’s been a tough sell.
He’s doing radon remediation. Radon is a radioactive gas that forms when uranium deteriorates. If the geology is right, radon can seep up through cracks in the rock and enter the atmosphere. Put a house on top of that cracked rock and the gas can collect in it, bringing the radon concentrations to a dangerous level. Breathe that gas long enough, and it increases your chances of lung cancer.
Guess what area has just the right geology for radon? State officials say that under Appalachian foothills in Calhoun, Cleburne, Clay and Talladega counties, there’s a layer of uranium and cracked granite that’s seeping radioactive gas. The only worse area in the state is the band of counties in Huntsville and parts north, where the uranium is trapped in shale.
“The state Health Department would like everyone in Calhoun County to get their home tested for radon,” said Jim McNees, radiation director for the Alabama Department of Public Health. “You can get a testing kit wholesale from your extension agent, though Lowe’s and Home Depot would probably not want me to say that.”
Sounds serious, but Booth said he’s not getting a whole lot of business. Maybe local residents have poison-gas fatigue. After housing some of the nation’s chemical weapons arsenal — and dealing with widespread pollution from Monsanto — it might be hard for Calhoun Countians to get worked up about toxic stuff in the dirt.
Booth has another theory. He thinks people are afraid to test. If they know about the gas, he said, they’ll know they need to get their houses fixed. Radon remediation involves installing a vent and a low-power fan that can draw the gas out from under a house’s foundation. Hire Booth to do it, and it will cost at least $1,200.
“People just don’t want to know,” he said. Still, Booth says, there should be a big untapped market out there.
“In the Midwest, this is something people know they have to do,” he said. “You get the house tested, you get it fixed. Here, we have to get the word out.”
Piedmont down to three hardware stores
It’s a business takeover, old-style.
Reid Hardware, a locally owned hardware store in Piedmont, recently bought the entire inventory of Main Street Hardware, also in Piedmont. Main Street is closing its doors, and the store’s wares are already on the shelves at Reid.
That leaves three hardware stores in Piedmont: Reid, Piedmont Hardware and Strickland’s. Still, the city seems to be one of the few remaining havens for the locally owned hardware store. The town has yet to get a big-box hardware retailer.
Even so, Reid’s is hedging their bets. Owner Cheryl Reid said the store is really a secondary source of income. The family owns Reid Fencing, a fence-building company. Hardware sales was a natural fit, she said, since the fencing company was already buying a lot of fence-building material and selling it in finished form.
“Once we opened a store, we had a location for both businesses,” she said.
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