North Carolina’s family farms and small businesses are the economic pillars of our rural economies. Our communities are fueled by the labors and talents of these entrepreneurs and small business owners.
After Hurricane Florence submerged Eastern North Carolina and showered the state with winds and rains, many of these men and women now face the task of rebuilding not only their own lives, but their businesses as well. For decades, the NC Rural Center has been there to assist small business owners throughout the state in rebuilding after a natural disaster, whether it is wildfires in the west or hurricanes in the east. That’s why Thread Capital, a subsidiary of the NC Rural Center, has launched the Hurricane Florence Rapid Recovery Loan Program, providing small business owners and farmers a financial bridge spanning from disaster to recovery.
The program offers six month, interest free loans of up to $50,000 for qualified small business and family farm applicants. Created to accelerate the recovery process, this assistance will get businesses open again so they may return to serving their communities.
The time between when disaster hits and relief arrives is a make-or-break time for many businesses and farms. Keeping a small business or family farm afloat during these times of crisis requires careful planning and diligence in filing claims and applying for relief.
As a supplemental means to help business owners as they await more substantial recovery assistance through state and federal relief programs, the Rapid Recovery Loan is neither a grant program nor a primary means for recovery. It is, however, a way to offset lost revenue and reduce lost time as a business owner or farmer awaits other relief funds.
For North Carolina as a whole, the economic recovery from a natural disaster of this magnitude will take years. In the flooded town of New Bern, population 30,101, more than 300 businesses have already reported an estimated $23.4 million in commercial damages. Statewide, the economic output lost is estimated to be over $20 billion.
Our state’s small businesses may weather the bulk of those losses. Small businesses remain the mainstay of our rural economy: roughly 75 percent of our state’s rural businesses have 10 employees or less.
Agribusiness, our state’s largest industry with more than $80 billion in economic impact each year, is extremely susceptible to natural disasters. Florence was no exception. An estimated $1.1 billion in agricultural losses are expected for poultry, pork, and tobacco producers as a result of the hurricane. Not to mention the damage to this year’s harvest of soybeans, sweet potatoes, cotton, and other crops.
North Carolina is a national leader in both livestock and tobacco production. The economic impact of a storm of Florence’s magnitude making landfall in the middle of harvest season will be immense.
For many of us, absorbing the impact this storm has on the lives of our families and communities is deeply personal. We love our communities, and seeing them destroyed, once more from natural disaster, is nothing less than heartbreaking.
Heartbreaking yes, but deal breaking, no. North Carolina’s story may be steeped in natural disasters, but our history is shaped by our tenacity and strength to recover from them.
We have faced natural disasters before, and have worked together to rebuild in their aftermath. Now it’s time to rebuild again. Let’s keep working together so that economic prosperity can reach every community. Let’s get our rural businesses open again.
For more information about Thread Capital’s Hurricane Florence Rapid Recovery Loan Program and to apply for assistance, please visit www.threadcap.org/florence. This website also includes links to additional resources available to business owners and farmers from our partners to help assist in the recovery efforts.
Patrick Woodie is the president and CEO of the NC Rural Center.