Local and federal agencies are working together to help small business owners re-open their businesses after the April 27 tornado damaged 24 miles of homes and businesses in Faulkner County.

On Monday, the U. S. Small Business Administration or SBA, Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center or SBTDC and the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce opened a Business Recovery Center at the new Faulkner County Justice Building at 510 S. German Lane.

"Due to the severe property damage and economic loss this tornado inflicted on businesses in Mayflower and Vilonia and surrounding communities, we want to provide every available service to help get businesses back on their feet," said SBA’s Arkansas District Director Linda Nelson. "This center will provide a single one-stop location for business owners to access a variety of specialized help."

According to Nelson, SBA customer service representatives will be available to meet individually with business owners to explain how a low-interest SBA disaster loan can help finance their recovery.

"They will answer questions about SBA’s disaster loan program, explain the application process, help each individual complete their application and close their approved loans," Nelson said. "You don’t need to wait on your insurance to settle or a contractor’s estimate before seeking SBA financial assistance," she added.

Brad Lacy, president of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce said he reached out to colleagues at the Joplin Chamber of Commerce for advice on what role the Conway chamber could best play in the recovery effort.

"Their experience with an SBA Business Recovery Center proved invaluable as they began rebuilding their community," he said. "We immediately reached out to the SBA and are very pleased that the SBA has responded so swiftly to help meet the needs of our business community, and in particular small businesses, by working with our chamber and the SBTDC to set up this Business Recovery Center."

The Conway chamber staff will also be available to help businesses find additional resources that may be available to help in their recovery, Lacy said.

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center will be at the Justice Building on Tuesdays and Thursdays offering its Checklist for Re-Opening Your Business After a Disaster, a tool business owners can use to assess their financial position and consider their options.

The six-page checklist poses questions business owners need to consider while developing their recovery plans. Business consultants from the center’s office at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock can work through the checklist with small business owners to help them plan for the future.

"We know many area business owners are eager to resume their business activities, but first they need a plan," said Janet Roderick, ASBTDC State Director. "I encourage area business owners affected by the recent tornadoes to take advantage of our free and confidential consulting services."

Businesses of any size and private, non-profit organizations may apply to SBA for low-interest disaster loans of up to $2 million to repair or replace damage to real estate, leasehold improvements, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. These loans cover uninsured losses or situations where the insurance coverage falls short of repair or replacement costs.

For small businesses and most private, non-profit organizations of any size, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans or EIDLs to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. EIDL assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.

The Business Recovery Center will open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Faulkner County Justice Building. No appointment is necessary.

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at michelle.corbet@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1215. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)