By: Greg Britton, State Director, Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network
On September 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida as one of the strongest hurricanes to ever impact the United States, leaving behind it a wake of devastation for residents and business owners across the state.
No strangers to disaster, Floridians proved their resilient spirit. Federal, state, and local officials jumped into action – deploying emergency personnel and resources to help communities rebuild. Other states rallied to support us and help rebuild our power grid. Relief poured in and residents and business owners began picking up the pieces of their lives again.
It has almost been two months since Ian ravaged our state. Sadly, as we have learned in past disasters, recovery is a long road. Recovery from the storm will take months – if not years.
I have the honor of serving as the state director of the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network. We are the state’s principal provider of small business assistance. In times of disaster, we play an integral role in coordinating recovery efforts with our federal, state, and local partners. In partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and local partners, we have stood up and staffed Business Recovery Centers (BRCs), where impacted small business owners can come for in-person assistance in understanding and applying for available state and federal disaster loans. We also deploy our fleet of mobile assistance centers into impacted communities to serve as BRCs when physical locations are not available.
Since Ian impacted our state, our team has been working around the clock to help small business owners access the resources they need to rebuild and recover.
Recently, I traveled to Fort Myers Beach to meet with local business owners impacted by the storm alongside our Florida SBDC at FGCU team and SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman. During this visit, business owners shared their plans to rebuild, however many expressed their concerns about the long road to recovery ahead, especially missing out on their peak season. In southwest Florida, many small businesses rely on tourists and seasonal residents during the winter.
I moved to Florida in 2002 and have personally experienced my fair share of storms. Our community was devastated in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan, which made landfall along the Gulf Coast as a powerful Category 3 storm.
Despite the widespread impacts and challenges the storm caused, I remember the disaster bringing out the best in our community. People shared their food, water, and electricity with others. They had neighborhood cookouts with the last of their food from their freezers. They donated time or labor to others in need.
It was special to me to witness and hear stories of the storm bringing out the best in our community. To witness how, in times of need and despair, the human spirit prevails through acts of love, decency, and kindness.
When I think about the businesses impacted by Hurricane Ian, I am reminded of how our community rallied after Hurricane Ivan to help others and make a difference. Small business owners impacted by the storm face a tough season ahead. Granted, they are tougher and will persevere, but they need our help.
So what can you do?
This Saturday, November 26 marks Small Business Saturday, which encourages shoppers to patronize small businesses and invest in their local communities, and serves as the ceremonial kickoff to the holiday season.
Launched by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday has grown into a national movement, with all 50 states participating through state and local events, proclamations, and other support.
This Small Business Saturday, and throughout the holiday season, you have the ability to make a difference. When you shop small, not only does more of your money stay local, it also has a direct, positive impact on creating more jobs and enhancing the vibrancy and diversity of your community.
In a recent study by American Express, $0.68 of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the local community, and for every dollar spent at a small business, an additional $0.48 in local business activity is generated as a result of employees and local businesses purchasing local goods and services.
This Small Business Saturday, consider supporting local businesses in your community – especially those impacted by the storm. If your favorite restaurant or store is closed, consider purchasing gift cards for yourself or others. If your favorite shop sells online but isn’t open, consider making purchases even if the goods won’t be available right away.
For more information on Small Business Saturday, and to download free resources for your small business, please visit www.shopsmall.com.
For more information on the Florida SBDC Network and how we’re helping small businesses recover from Hurricane Ian, visit www.FloridaSBDC.org/disaster.
Greg Britton serves as the State Director of the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, the state’s principal provider of small business assistance. Since its inception in 1976, the network has helped more than 1.7 million small business owners launch, grow, and thrive. Learn more about the Florida SBDC Network and find an office near you at www.FloridaSBDC.org.