Small Businesses in OKC Area Struggle to Rebuild
By Janette Ballman
When a disaster strikes an industrialized area, numerous small businesses with no contingency plans are often affected and must struggle to survive. For many businesses near the recent explosion site in Oklahoma City, Okla., this was the case.
More than 300 businesses in a
15-square-block area were damaged, with 14 condemned. Of those, many were
The only information which may
have been lost was information that had not been entered into the computer,
or documents like medical records submitted for claims. That information
would have to be submitted again, officials said.
In addition, most area banks - which are required by law to have backup plans - were back to business as usual by Thursday, April 20. The blast caused temporary shutdown of most downtown banking activity, including key industry services provided by the Federal Reserve Bank. However, by Thursday, the Fed was operated by a skeleton crew and the doors were again opened at most downtown banks. Checks were processed at the office after they were delivered to a remote site. Though two downtown Bank of Oklahoma locations were damaged or inaccessible, employees from those two locations were reassigned to other areas.
The large businesses' fights for recovery were in no way easy, but, because of contingency planning, they were manageable. The story is very different for many of the smaller businesses around the blast site. Most did not have any type of recovery plan in place before the bombing.
“Large businesses tend to
be more organized,” said Jim Atkins, public information officer
with the Small Business Administration. He noted that in his six years
with the SBA he has not seen any small business with any real disaster
The applications are for two types of business loans offered by the SBA. Business Physical Disaster Loans are loans to businesses to repair or replace disaster damages to property owned by the business, including real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and supplies. Businesses of any size are eligible. The Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) provide loans for working capital to small businesses and small agricultural cooperatives to assist them through the disaster recovery period. EIDL assistance is available only to applicants with no credit available elsewhere.
A small business is classified as such by comparing its recorded sales or number of employees against predetermined standards for each industrial field. For example, in the manufacturing field, a wire and cable manufacturer would be classified as a small businesses if its recorded sales or its number of employees matched those standards set for that field.
As of mid-May, Mr. Atkins said
68 applications for Physical Disaster Loans and 74 applications for Economic
Injury Disaster Loans were returned to his office.
Cecil Elliott, an employee of Hale Photography, said his business would be one of those needing assistance. The businesses' owner, Delores Hale, would determine whether the firm could stay open based upon how much assistance was available, said Mr. Elliott. The photography shop, located at 622 N. Broadway Ave. - one block from the explosion - had some structural damage, but was able to reopen the day after the blast. They were kept busy selling film and other photography supplies. But, Mr. Elliott said he felt the brisk business was temporary. The mainstay of their business - processing film - has been halted because of damage to the developers. Mr. Elliott also fears structural damage at the building could be worse than originally estimated. Mr. Elliott said he did not know of any contingency plan in effect at the business. “You just don't think things like this will happen,” he said.
Some small businesses located outside the downtown area of Oklahoma City area also suffered affects of the bombing, even though they were not near the bomb site. The Oklahoma City office of Trader Publishing Company, which publishes four magazines - Auto Trader, Truck Trader, Bargain Post, and Boat, Bike, and RV Trader, was unable to print some of its magazines after its printer's building was damaged in the blast. The Journal Record, located directly across the street from the Murrah Federal Building, was in the process of printing Auto Trader and Truck Trader when the bomb exploded. “Our "boards" (blueprints) for the two magazines were inside the Journal Record building along with the finished books for Boat, Bike and RV magazine when the explosion occurred,” said Sandy Bale, office manager for Trader Publishing Company. “We do not have a "backup" copy of the boards in our office, so printing elsewhere could not occur until we were able to re-enter that building and retrieve the boards.”
The publishing company, which had no established contingency plan, needed to take steps immediately to recover their losses. The firm first notified available commercial customers and inquiring private advertisers that the two magazines would not be available on their normal distribution day. “We had to give all our advertisers in the Auto and Truck magazines credit for the week that we were unable to print,” said Bale. “Circulation and commercial revenue were down for the two books that didn't make it at all that week.” Company officials next made arrangements for a Journal Record administrator to enter the damaged building and retrieve the "boards" for the two magazines. These were then sent to an alternate printer in Kansas for publication.
“The magazines were available
by the following Monday,” said Bale.
And the event has made Trader Publishing, and many other small businesses in the area, think about contingency planning for the future.
This article adapted from V8#3.
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