Flint & Genesee Chamber Members,
As our community continues to work through the challenges brought about by Flint’s water emergency, I want to update you on the ongoing efforts of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. Over the past several weeks, the Chamber has been fully engaged in doing what it can to help businesses cope with this disaster.
Emergency Operations Center
The Chamber is plugged into the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is coordinating relief efforts for the community. Cheryl Defrain, the Chamber’s Director of Operations, is our EOC liaison and her appointment helps ensure that we’re aligned with the city, county and state governments in working through this crisis. It also allows her to bring forth concerns of the business community for consideration and possible action.
Help for Businesses
Local food establishments are especially concerned as perceptions about the safety of Flint’s drinking water has driven some customers away. At the same time, expenses are increasing due to providing bottled water, leasing water services and adding filtration systems. Non-food businesses and nonprofits also are buying water filters and bottled water for their employees and customers.
In response, the Chamber worked with the offices of our Congressional delegation – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Senator Gary Peters and U.S. Representative Dan Kildee – to secure an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration for Genesee County. The declaration clears the way for businesses affected by the water emergency to seek financial relief.
Eligible businesses and nonprofits can apply for up to $2 million in long-term, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration that can be used for operations and capital needs such as making payroll or replacing inventories. The declaration area includes Flint and Genesee County, and the adjacent counties of Lapeer, Livingston, Oakland, Saginaw, Shiawassee and Tuscola. It covers small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture businesses and private nonprofit organizations.
This was a multi-step process that required specific documentation and certification by Governor Rick Snyder.
The Chamber distributed worksheet forms to dozens of businesses and then worked with individual businesses to complete the documents. We compiled the completed forms and submitted the packet to the Governor’s office. At least five businesses had to show significant impact from the crisis; the Chamber submitted six diverse business testimonials.
Information about the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is posted on the Chamber’s website on the Flint Water Emergency page.
Flint Business Recovery Center
Our team also worked with the SBA to establish the Flint Business Recovery Center, which is now located at the Oak Business Center, 2712 Saginaw St. They are reaching out to ensure that businesses are taking advantage of the resource. Chamber staff will follow up with businesses that submitted the initial worksheets that led to the economic declaration. We’ll also direct distressed business owners to the recovery center and online site as calls for help are received. In addition, the information was shared at the Feb. 11 meeting of the Genesee Global Action Team (GGAT).
Event: Flint Small Business Assistance Forum – Feb. 18
The Chamber is participating in the Flint Small Business Assistance Forum on Feb. 18 at Berston Field House. Aimed at business owners affected by the water emergency, the forum will provide direct, personal access to local, state and federal programs, and services that can help Flint businesses and community leaders recover and grow.
Water Safety & Testing Compliance
On Feb. 5, the Chamber participated in a joint news conference with Lt. Governor Brian Calley, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), and the Genesee County Health Department to highlight the water safety compliance and testing procedures in place to ensure food safety. Chamber staff assisted in coordinating the news conference, which was held at Blackstone’s Pub & Grill.
Bottled Water for Businesses
We’re continuing to provide free bottled water for businesses. To date, Chamber volunteers have handed out 428 cases of water to 56 since the service began on Feb. 2.
The water is available Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9-11 a.m., at the Genesee Packaging facility at 1611 James P. Cole Blvd. in the Riverview Industrial Park.
Members looking for volunteer opportunities are welcomed to join us on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help distribute water. Please contact Kyle McCree, Director of Core Initiatives, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in volunteering.
As you know all too well, there’s still much work to be done in the short-term and long-term to fix Flint’s water infrastructure. The Chamber will stay at the forefront of this issue, and we will continue to update you, accordingly.