Flood Response: Business Support Means Community Vitality
Local businesses are a big part of what makes a place special, their presence wrapped up in our daily lives and special occasions alike: a haircut, a pre-work coffee or post-game pizza, a part for your car, a birthday card for your grandkid. They are owned by our neighbors, and we might see one or two more while we’re there, especially in rural areas. Without these businesses, communities lose more than people and livelihoods, they lose the character that makes them special and the connections that make them vital.
Whatcom County businesses suffered more than $15 million in uninsured damage to buildings and inventory in the wake of November’s historic floods, according to WWU’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). (That number is likely much higher since many businesses have not reported their losses.) In addition to the hardest hit areas – Sumas, Everson and Nooksack — businesses in Ferndale and Bellingham also bore losses.
In many cases, the harm to businesses is compounded by personal loss — 75% of the homes in Sumas were affected by the flooding, part of the estimated $50 million in property damage. (For some, their business is in their home.) Many in the north county are still in crisis, living in motels, or with friends or family while the process of property assessment and disbursement of government disaster funds is underway. Meanwhile, businesses typically have access to federal disaster assistance only through borrowing.
Their needs vary. Some owners want to reopen and can access low-interest loans or other capital on their own. Others need grants to reopen. All have essential expenses that include rent, payroll, repairs and mitigation measures to better face future disasters.
In coordination with the Business Recovery Task Force and the Whatcom Long-Term Recovery Group (formerly Whatcom Strong) we’ve launched the Whatcom Small Business Disaster Recovery Fund to invest in the recovery and resilience of flood-affected small businesses to preserve community character and foster economic viability in rural Whatcom County.
Your gift – and your patronage – will help local small business owners contribute to economic and community vitality across Whatcom County. Thank you!
Photo courtesy of Alan Fritzberg