The road to recovery after October’s tornado in Dallas has proven to be a daunting task for a number of entrepreneurs.
There’s concern that those small businesses often referred to the "backbone" of any economy will be unable to rebuild.
Business owners and commercial building owners met with city and federal representatives in Dallas Tuesday for a town hall meeting.
When the winds came whipping through northwest Dallas that October night, Dream Media, LLC’s owner said he was huddled inside a room in the Walnut-Stemmons Office Park.
In the weeks since the tornado, Cedric Buard said business was about as destroyed as their building.
Dream Media said they’ve lost 80% of their clients.
“I notice little things that I miss like my software,” he said. “I’m like, 'Ugh, that got lost in the tornado.'"
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Buard and other affected or displaced entrepreneurs met with Dallas City Council members and officials with the U.S. Small Business Administration in a town hall setting.
They asked questions about available financial help from the government.
The extensive damage caused by the EF3 tornado means the SBA can offer businesses of all sizes, private nonprofits, homeowners and renters who suffered losses financial assistance, including low interest loans.
By the time the meeting was over, Buard left knowing an SBA loan was not likely the help he was looking for.
He said he’s tried to apply for a similar loan before and said it was a complex process and one he didn't feel his credit situation would help.
“I think that business loans are not going to help us really small business owners like myself, because we were already struggling,” he said.
City council member Omar Narvaez, who represents a large swath of the affected area, said he, along with some colleagues on the council and other city officials, would work on policy in the coming weeks and months that would potentially offer other options to those in need, like Buard.
“We’re trying to figure out what policy that we can do to help these businesses, whether they’re small loans or small grants, in order to help the smallest of the businesses that may not qualify for an SBA loan,” Narvaez said. “It may not be a grant. It may be a neighborhood empowerment zone. It could be a TIF district. There’s so many tools in the toolbox.”
Some worry help won’t come quick enough to restore businesses on the city’s northwest side.
“My biggest fear is the area gets deserted,” said Eric Lindberg of the Northwest Dallas Business Association.
The association represents 160 businesses in the hard hit area.
Lindberg said many commercial real estate owners are ready or close to being ready to file for permits to rebuild.
He said he hoped the city would give them priority, but worries others may not be able to afford to come back.
“You look at the struggles that area [northwest Dallas] has had over the past decade with crime, they may not want to come back and this is their easy opportunity to break their lease and say, 'See you later. We’re just not going to come back,'" he said.
There are two upcoming deadlines with the SBA. One, for physical damage, is Jan. 12, 2020, the other, for economic damage, is Aug. 14, 2020.