Inside Witt Associates: Arkansan Builds His Own Private FEMA

The business of emergency management and planning for disasters has never been so relevant.

As Cabinet-level director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under then-President Bill Clinton, Arkansan James Lee Witt transformed FEMA from a dumping ground of political appointees into a model organization emulated by countries.

Witt, the former Yell County judge tapped by then-Gov. Clinton to lead the state's emergency management efforts, and later asked by Clinton to take over FEMA, parlayed his experience into a $22 million private enterprise that maintains a presence in Little Rock.

That figure is how much Witt and his partners paid last year to buy back their emergency management company from Global Options Group, which had absorbed Witt Associates in 2006 for $6 million and stock options.

Witt Associates not only helps companies, cities, states and countries prepare for and respond to disasters, it helps them navigate the federal regulations and deal with the red tape that follows in the wake of catastrophes.  

"We knew this niche of business would be fairly good," Witt told Arkansas Business during an interview at the River Market regional office his firm shares with retired Gen. Wesley Clark. "There was no one else doing it. It's become a competitive business now."

Click to read the full Arkansas Business cover story on Witt Associates.


Witt: Why FEMA should have remained an independent agency.