Businesses Step Up After Hurricane Sandy

Nov 5, 2012

A view outside of Home Made cafe on Van Brunt Street stands in Red Hook's main commercial thoroughfare in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Dozens of generators were in use along the street to pump water from the basements. Photographer: James Tarmy/Bloomberg

Shovels. Gloves. Brooms. Flashlights. These are just a few of the surprisingly mundane everyday household items that are needed by New York businesses recovering from Hurricane Sandy, according to Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Friedman joined representatives from the U.S. Chamber’s Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (National VOAD) on a conference call just days after the Hurricane to discuss the response and the still outstanding needs.

Nancy Ploeger, executive director of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, estimated that of the 250,000 businesses in the five New York boroughs, at least 35% to 40% had been affected in some way by Hurricane Sandy.

The big fear, according to Ploeger and Friedman, is that many of these small businesses won’t make it at all. Due to the weak economy, many of them were “hanging on by a thread,” Ploeger said. “I’m fearful that these small businesses were on the cusp and this will just push them over the edge,” Friedman said.

That’s why assistance is critical. Ploeger, who helped guide Manhattan through 9-11, called for the resurgence of a program her Chamber helped put in place—an Adopt-a-Company program that pairs up large corporations with smaller businesses recovering from disaster.

For Friedman, the list of needs is long and includes generators, power pumps, drying agents, rental cars, and refrigerated trailers. Friedman said he has a list of addresses that need supplies delivered directly to them. “The burroughs are different, we have to work outside the city government to get goods to our citizens, who probably won’t have electricity for another two weeks,” Friedman said.

In response to the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, businesses have pledged more than $56 million towards relief efforts, according BCLC. The business donations represent cash, in-kind products or services, and employee and customer matching campaigns.

Business donors are listed on BCLC’s online Sandy Corporate Aid Tracker.  Since its founding in 2000, BCLC has served as the coordination hub and liaison between businesses that contribute to disaster response and the nonprofits and communities seeking assistance.  The business community has been a major partner in disaster relief and recovery for several years and in a variety of disaster settings.  A chart detailing the business community’s financial contributions can be found here.

“The private sector has just really stepped up,” said Jeanie Moore, senior adviser at the private-sector office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In addition to tracking corporate donations, BCLC’s disaster response system includes the Disaster Help Desk for Business, response briefings for the public and media, and local trouble-shooting services that connect donations to where they are needed most.

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