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Center Aims To Help More Local Businesses Survive Storm's Impact

By Cece Nunn, posted Oct 11, 2018

Officials at a center in Wilmington that counsels business owners are encouraging them to remember long-term goals in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

Heather McWhorter, regional director of the Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) at 803 S. College Road in Wilmington, said she has hired three business recovery interns from UNCW to assist in the center's efforts and had a four-member hurricane relief team from other centers in Wilmington last week.

McWhorter said typically, based on past statistics, 40 percent of small businesses fail to reopen after a natural disaster. As a result of that statistic, she’s working to get the word out about the options business owners have and the need to think about the long-haul.

“My goal is that none of our businesses fail,” she said.

As a result of the storm, the center has seen an uptick in clients.

“We helped 100 businesses at our center last week,” McWhorter said Wednesday, adding that those were just the clients seeking help because of the disaster.

“Depending on how complex the business is, they're missing sales calls, they're missing shipments, possibly missing international shipments, which is a huge deal, and we're having them start to make a list of that so they can document their economic injury to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans and to determine the best strategic way to move forward for success.”

The SBTDC, which is connected to the University of  North Carolina Wilmington and the Cameron School of Business and is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the Small Business Administration, offers personalized business counseling and strategy development services in New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, Columbus, Duplin and Onslow counties.

McWhorter said she doesn’t think there’s any one-size-fits-all solution to the havoc Hurricane Florence has caused businesses in the region. But along with SBA disaster loans, another option is a Rapid Recovery Loan of up to $50,000 from Thread Capital, the N.C. Rural Center’s lending arm.

“These short-term loans can be repaid using insurance proceeds or other disaster loan proceeds. 0 percent interest for six months, but then 1 percent per month after that,” according to SBTDC business recovery tips.

The loans are intended to bridge the gap between the time a major catastrophe occurs and when a business has secured other resources, such as insurance proceeds or SBA disaster loans.

"Eligible applicants must have between 1 and 100 employees. Non-employer businesses (such as passive real estate holding companies) may qualify if the loan proceeds will be used to benefit a tenant with employees or other eligible business," according to the SBTDC.

McWhorter said, overall, "We need to just keep pushing and get in there and help them, get them to figure out what they need to reopen ... and what to do next so they can be more successful long term."

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