By now we know that natural disasters like super storm Sandy affect small businesses in all kinds of, well, disastrous ways, from destroying their merchandise to driving away their customers. Some aren’t able to re-open at all.
Luckily for survivors, there is some help. The SBA said last week, a month after Sandy hit the East Coast, that it has approved a total of $156.56 million (through last Thursday) in low-interest disaster loans to just over 2,500 businesses and residents in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
But not all disasters are as obvious as Sandy. Case in point: Earlier this fall, a different kind of disaster was brewing in the form of a National Hockey League (NHL) lockout, still ongoing today. Aside from the players and teams themselves, small businesses are often hurt considerably when the season comes to a halt before it begins.
Interestingly, the SBA is stepping in to help here, too. It has announced that it will offer counseling to small businesses in the 23 cities affected by the lockout. The SBA will draw on its network of 14,000 counselors in SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and Veterans’ Business Outreach Centers to offer counseling sessions to business owners in the U.S. cities that have NHL teams, intended to help them work through the effects of the lockout.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our cities and towns and they should not have to sit in the penalty box,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “When massive work stoppages affect local businesses, the federal government must play a role in helping to ensure stability. Using our vast counseling network, SBA is prepared to coach small businesses until the crowds return.”
Not only are businesses across the U.S. feeling the effects of the non-season so far, the Columbus Dispatch reports that the NHL has also cancelled its 2013 All-Star Game, which would have been played in Columbus because of the lockout. The city estimates the hit it will take at $12 million in revenue and as much as $50 million in media exposure during the week-long All-Star festivities.
Meanwhile, there’s ongoing debate about just how much an event like the NHL lockout actually affects the franchise cities and the businesses that inhabit them. Many calculate that the impact to the cities is often not that great, given that much of the spend directed to hockey can be redirected and repurposed to other forms of entertainment.
But most agree that small businesses located around the arenas do suffer. The businesses in the Arena District in Columbus, OH are an example. Many remember all too well the effects when the 2004-2005 season was wiped out due to a labor dispute. Hundreds of millions had been spent building not only the arena but the entire business district around it. Relatively new to the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets had (and have since) been plagued with what may be normal fits and starts—things like uneven performance, building a fan base and coaching turnover. So businesses in the area definitely didn’t need the total disruption of a lost season. Some did not survive.
The cities themselves and other organizations do provide some help to the businesses affected. In Columbus, Nationwide Realty Investors is reducing rent by 50 percent for the majority of area restaurants and bars for the duration of the lockout.