Lending A Hand

Consultants from the Small Business Development Center at Jamestown Community College don’t just help store owners, but also victims of tragedy.

Curt Anderson and Nick Ferrara, SBDC consultants, each spent two weeks in Rockaway Beach to help victims of Superstorm Sandy apply for business loans and grants. The funding available included federal disaster loans for damaged or destroyed real estate or equipment; emergency loans, with a grant, for businesses damaged by Sandy, sales tax exemptions and relief grants.

Irene Dobies, SBDC at JCC executive director, said both Anderson and Ferrara volunteered after the state’s Small Business Development Center in Albany asked for assistance in helping business owners in Rockaway.

”Both Nick and Curt volunteered for two weeks each,” she said.

Ferrara went first in January and Anderson followed in February. Both said they did what they could to help business owners apply for grants and loans.

”It was a sad situation. Our hands were tied a little. Some folks didn’t want loans, they just wanted grants, but not everyone qualified for grants. It was a frustrating situation,” Anderson said.

Even though Anderson and Ferrara couldn’t help everyone with their needs, they both said it was a pleasure to help anyway they could.

”It was an honor to help,” Ferrara said. ”The process, at times, was frustrating, but, at the same time, it was gratifying to be able to have an impact one client at a time.”

Ferrara said he was able to assist about 60 business owners and Anderson helped around 25. Ferrara said he was able to help more people because one day a special grant and loan workshop was setup in Rockaway’s business corridor.

”I was fortunate to get to another area that had more flooding,” Ferrara said. ”We were able to set up shop in a business corridor. We had a lot of traffic. People were working the streets bringing people in to see us.”

Anderson said he spoke to a lot of people about their experience during Superstorm Sandy.

”I had about 10 co-workers in the office from the area. They talked about where they were. They shared their story with us,” he said. ”They were very open with it.”

Ferrara said he didn’t hear many stories from locals about their ordeal.

”The focus was on moving forward, and helping them move forward,” he said.

Dobies said this isn’t the first time consultants from the local SBDC were sent to help people following a disaster. She said consultants were sent to New York City following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Anderson and Ferrara said even though Sandy hit the East Coast three months ago, the complete impact of the storm won’t be known for the business community in Rockaway until this summer. Rockaway is a tourist community.

”A lot of tourist areas were hit and were hit pretty hard,” Anderson said. ”It will be interesting to see in June what businesses will be open, and how it will look. Interesting to see if the people will come back.

Ferrara added, ”Only time will tell.”