Americus merchants look to the future - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Americus merchants look to the future

April 4, 2007

Americus --  The March first tornado in Americus ripped apart the business community, damaging 215 businesses.  Wednesday those businesses got started on the long term recovery process.

Both City and Sumter County officials believe the key to Americus' long term survival is business.  A storm recovery summit hoped to put businesses face to face with government agencies that can offer financial opportunities to rebuild or make repairs. 

It was one of Sumter County's biggest employers, Sumter Regional Hospital, that may have taken the biggest hit, and while questions about the hospital's future still remain unanswered other businesses found that there is help available to rebuild storm ravaged businesses.

Decorating Unlimited took a direct hit in the March first tornado.  Windows that were blown out a month ago today were replaced, but rebuilding the business hasn't been easy on owner Nell Purvis.

"It's like being on a sea-saw," she says. "One day you have this emotion, the next day you have another emotion, some days I'm angry some days I'm upset, some days I'm grateful so, it's a lot." 

Insurance won't cover all of the Purvis' losses so they're looking for any help they can find. "There are some things not settled with the insurance company so we've applied for a SBA loan, and there are a couple of other programs available that we will go to if we need to."

"It could be low interest loans, it could be grants, it could be technical assistance, it could be just guidance assistance on business plans," said David Garriga of the Americus-Sumter Co. Chamber of Commerce.

Whether it's loss of time, income, days shut down because of the storm or actual damage there is help available.
 
"We know we've lost well over a thousand even up to two thousand jobs, when you realize the health community, the retail, the service community, its a tremendous impact," said Garriga. 

An impact that will take years to recover from, but with assistance could happen quicker for businesses ask for help.

"There are a lot of things here that's available to people that they don't realize, I didn't until I came," says Purvis.

"We thought this was the quickest way to get the word out and get some face to face time with the governmental agencies and the businesses affected themselves,"   Garriga said.

As we drove the businesses community today we saw a mixture of recovery, Advanced Auto Parts, which had a store standing last week has demolished their building.   But Subway, which had been closed is now open, so you can see the recovery for business will take some time.

The City declared 39 businesses destroyed, most of those were doctor's offices or part of the medical community.

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