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The Short-Term Outlook for Houston Businesses Following Hurricane Harvey

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A little over a week following Hurricane Harvey, Houstonians are working to reopen for business. The storm dumped over four feet of rain on the Houston metropolitan area, leaving damaged homes, cars, and lives in its wake. Yet, the fourth-largest city in America is trudging on.

Shipping lanes and the city’s airports opened to limited traffic last week. Some employees returned to their places of business on the Thursday or Friday prior to the long weekend, while more trickled in after the Labor Day holiday to clean up and regroup. Some businesses remain closed due to the overwhelming nature of the loss, while their employees remain unsure and unpaid. As the flood waters receded, some areas of the city are left with piles of debris, looking more like a war zone, while other parts remain virtually untouched. Mayor Sylvester Turner was quoted by NBC DFW saying, “I’m encouraging people to get up and let’s get going. Most of the city is dry. And I’m saying to people, if you can open, let’s open up and let’s get started.”

The Short-Term Outlook for Houston Businesses Following Hurricane Harvey

Photo: Facebook/Thomas Pesquet

In the aftermath, many small companies will have to work hard to stay afloat (no pun intended), while the larger businesses will quickly recover. Damaged equipment, moldy carpets, meeting payroll, attracting customers back, and reconnecting with suppliers may prove too much for smaller businesses, many of which have management nursing personal losses of their own. “The big boxes and big chains can absorb hits like this; small businesses can’t,” Craig Fugate said to NBC DFW, adding, “Some will make the decision not to reopen. Others won’t be able to.”

The Short-Term Outlook for Houston Businesses Following Hurricane Harvey

Photo: Facebook/CG TN America Via Erich Schlegel/Getty Images/AFP

Estimates on small businesses that never reopen after such a disaster as Hurricane Harvey are sitting at close to 40 percent, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As of Tuesday, September 5, the Houston office of U.S. Small Business Administration had approved 19 Harvey-related low-interest business loans totaling $1.7 million. “We have to get people to apply,” says Michael Flores, a spokesman for the SBA disaster loan program. Often, he says, “they are just overwhelmed.” In the short view of things, blue collar as well as Houston businesses that deal in cars and home services may benefit from a boon in work following Harvey, while in the long-term, sources identify that it could take up to two years to fully determine the effects of the hurricane on business, with the potential for bankruptcies increasing exponentially as a result of insurmountable damages.