Business Resources to Help Homeowners in Recovery Mode Ian | Business Observer
As businesses in the area grapple with damage and reopening efforts, the Sarasota Economic Development Corp. has done what she can to help ease the burden. Even something as simple as listening has been a powerful resource.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the state’s Emergency Response Team created a Business Damage Assessment Survey after Hurricane Ian left many businesses closed and in the dark. Sarasota County EDC collected the county data and, in partnership with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, reached out to businesses that needed it.
The main problem they have encountered so far is businesses with no internet access or cell availability. In response, the EDC created a “hotline” to help file data on behalf of businesses and entered into a partnership so that business owners could use computers at SunCoast Technical College to answer the survey there. . Each company that responds to the survey has the opportunity to receive a personal phone call to better understand their needs and situation.
As of October 7, 148 companies had completed the survey. So far, the team has assessed more than $5.5 million in estimated damage to businesses in Sarasota County alone. “I think this is just scratching the surface,” says Erin Silk, vice-president of business development services at EDC. EDC and the Chamber remained aware of these survey responses, as all but 39 companies, which did not request a call, had received a personal call.
The needs they see are vast. A daycare needed a fence repair to reopen. Some businesses needed marketing help to let people know they were open.
“I had a company that I had known for a long time that was trying to access the SBA website and just had trouble with the password,” Silk says. “You really felt for them. After everything they’ve been through, they just can’t access their connection. I heard it in his voice.
“That” being all the emotions one feels after going through a natural disaster and having to rebuild.
“What we find is that people really want to share their story. They want to tell us what happened to them,” Krouse said. “It’s really hard to be on the other end of the line, listening to the stories. The stories were hard to hear.
“We heard the storm through so many different eyes.”