FINDLAY, Ohio -- When it comes to Findlay's downtown business community, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is going the extra mile - literally.
SBA customer services representatives are going door-to-door to explain disaster loans to local businesses. They seek out business owners who have not yet visited the local Business Assistance Center.
"We do whatever it takes to get the word out," said Larry Bates, SBA team leader at the Business Assistance Center.
The business center, located at the rear entrance of Commercial Savings Bank at 201 East Lincoln St., was established specifically to reach out to the many downtown businesses affected by the recent flooding.
The business center is open the same hours as the bank:
Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday 8:30 a.m. to noon
The SBA representatives work from a master list of businesses provided by Greater Findlay, Inc., the local chamber of commerce. If they cannot reach a business by phone they make a personal visit. The door-to-door canvass picks up any businesses not on the list.
"We understand that local business owners are working feverishly to get their businesses up and running. Most don't have the time to spend in line at a disaster recovery center. That's why we come to them. And that's why we operate a Business Assistance Center specifically geared to local businesses," said Bates.
Last week Gil Yingling, an SBA business services representative, made his second visit to Riverside Glass. The local business has flooded three times in the last nine months. On his first visit Yingling spoke with the owner's wife, Heather Wilkins. His second visit was to meet her husband Brian.
The most recent flood was the worst for Riverside Glass. The business on East Main Cross, which has been in the family for two generations, sits between two creeks. During the August flood their building had 5 ½ feet of water inside.
At the same time, the bridge next to their building was severely damaged and remains closed today. Even SBA had difficulty getting to them by car.
"The flood knocks your feet from under you," said Heather, then the bridge going out "kicks you in the teeth while you're down."
The Wilkinses still are too busy to carefully consider if an SBA loan is right for them. Their first priority is to satisfy their existing customers and help other flooded businesses who need their services. But Heather said she appreciated the personal attention from SBA.
Riverside Glass and other businesses like it have one month before they have to make a decision. The deadline to apply for an SBA loan is October 26, 2007.
Disaster loans from the SBA are not just for small businesses. The SBA is the primary source of federal funds for long-term disaster recovery for homeowners, renters, non-farm businesses of all sizes, and private non-profit organizations. In fact, the majority of SBA disaster loans are made to homeowners and renters.
SBA loan amounts are based on the actual cost of repairing or rebuilding a damaged home or business and replacing damaged personal property, minus any insurance reimbursements or benefits from other agencies or organizations for the same loss.
Those affected by a disaster do not have to wait for their insurance settlement before applying for an SBA loan.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.