Top 3% Best City to Start a Small Business

2nd Fastest Growing City in the U.S.

Best City for Young Entrepreneurs

Offering Aid to our Entrepreneurial Community

Before, during, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the City of North Port Florida received thousands of inbound calls from residents on everything from wellness checks to evacuation zones and debris removal. In the weeks following Ian, the flood waters began to recede, damage assessments were underway, and the City of North Port Economic Development Division got to work activating a Business Relief Call Center focused on making outbound calls to local businesses.

The Business Relief Call Center is staffed with City employees who found themselves displaced from their offices and departments following the storm. On Friday, Oct. 14, call center staff began reaching out to nearly 1,000 North Port businesses and fielded hundreds of call-backs; all to ensure local businesses are aware of and can access the federal, state, and local resources made available following #hurricaneian.

These resources come in the form of a digital Hurricane Business Resource Guide, and include information on accounting for physical and economical damages with the State of Florida and how to apply for disaster assistance from FEMA, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), and CareerSource Suncoast.

“Business owners seem pleased to hear from us and know that we are here, we care, and we want to offer information on getting much-needed assistance,” said Melanie Stemmer, a Staff Assistant for the City’s Utilities Department who staffed both Hurricane Ian call centers.

City staffers volunteering in the Business Relief Call Center have heard heartbreaking story after story from local businesses that were hit hard. Callers listened to numerous accounts of loss spanning revenue, products, inventory, equipment, and workforce. North Port is a #CommunityOfUnity and is offering a helping hand to ensure our entrepreneurial community will bounce back, stronger than ever.

Making Connections

Jane DeClercq is a North Port resident, small business owner, and a Lifeguard at the North Port Aquatic Center. However, following the hurricane, she has offered her services in the Business Relief Call Center making real connections with other local business owners as they discuss over the phone disaster recovery needs and the resources available.

“Each call is different, and people’s situations vary. One minute you are speaking with the owner of a small pool cleaning service who’s trying to account for damaged vehicles and equipment, and the next call is with a local lawn care business that needs to apply for disaster unemployment assistance,” said Jane DeClercq. “As a North Port business owner, myself, making these connections is meaningful, and it feels good to help your neighbors and the businesses you use in and around the City every day.”

Of the businesses that the call center reached, the top issues on the minds of local business owners are FEMA resources, disaster loans, workforce assistance, and damages to their businesses.