Last summer Louisiana experienced historic flooding that largely affected the nine-parish Baton Rouge region. Many homes and businesses were damaged by the flooding. To assist small business owners during the recovery of their businesses, the Louisiana Small Business Rebirth Fund was created in partnership between the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC); One Acadiana; Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI); Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.); the Louisiana chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB); and the Louisiana Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (LACCE).
The fund helped flood-affected small businesses by providing owners with triage loans to quicken recovery efforts. As of December 31, the fund had disbursed $614,750 to 113 small businesses in 11 parishes. Now, one year after the flood, we spoke with three business owners who received rebirth funds to hear their stories of rebuilding.
Next to Parents Daycare, Inc.
Jacqueline Woods established Baton Rouge-based Next to Parents Daycare, Inc. in 2003 to provide quality care services for children ranging from six weeks to 12 years old. When the flood hit, Next to Parents was operating inside a church that was devastated by the flood. Woods’ initial thoughts were on her clients. She wanted to make sure she could quickly provide her services again as many of her clients are low-income and struggle to find affordable and reliable childcare. Her first obstacle to reopening after the flood was location. The church her business operated in was unusable after the flood, so she had to find a new location for her business.
Once a new location was found, Woods was faced with the burden of replacing items lost in the flood. This is where the Rebirth Fund came into play. The Louisiana Small Business Rebirth Fund allowed Woods to purchase furniture, books and many other necessary daycare items much more quickly than she would have been able to on her own. Due to the Rebirth Fund, Next to Parents was closed for only three months. One year later, Woods says Next to Parents is running at full capacity and she is happy to be helping families once again.
Gulf South Engineering and Testing, Inc.
With a branch office in Gonzales affected by the flood, Gulf South Engineering and Testing, Inc. had to move operations to their headquarters in Kenner, La., until the Gonzales location was up and running again. The company, owned by Chad Poche and Rodney Greenup, Jr., provides geotechnical engineering and construction materials testing and inspections. After the flood, Poche’s first thoughts went straight to his employees. Were they okay? And then, how could he reopen the business as quickly as possible, so he could continue to provide his employees with jobs?
While operating out of their Kenner location, Gulf South Engineering and Testing was able to use the Louisiana Small Business Rebirth Fund to purchase much needed equipment to continue serving their clients in Gonzales and the surrounding area. Poche says they are, ”open and fully recovered from the flood thanks in part to the help from the Rebirth Fund.”
Ethan’s Alterations, LLC
Situated in the heart of Denham Springs’ flood damages, Ethan’s Alterations, LLC, owned by Long Pham, experienced a total loss of its business. The building and all the equipment were damaged and in need of replacement. In the flood aftermath, Pham immediately began searching for funding because he knew the damages would be great and the business was his major source of income.
According to Pham, the Louisiana Small Business Rebirth Fund played a major role in helping purchase new equipment and fixtures and helped accelerate their reopening schedule. Ethan’s Alterations officially reopened in December 2016.
Morgan is the Marketing Manager for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. In her role, she manages writing organizational publications and materials, oversees BRAC’s social media and blog, and coordinates timelines for all internal marketing projects.