A column by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
For West Virginians like Cheryl Sams, who owns Sams Auction and Bargain Barn in Clendenin, the flooding that hit our state in June was especially devastating. Her family business lost $100,000 in inventory, and their building sustained $30,000 in damages.
But they plan to rebuild – not only for themselves, but for their community. They are focusing their new inventory, initially, on houseware items to help their neighbors replace necessities, like coffee pots and silverware, at discount prices.
People like Cheryl are more than just business owners. These are community leaders, friends and neighbors. And all of the small businesses that populate our towns are more than storefronts. They have names; they have faces. Often generations of both.
For these reasons and so many more, we have created RISE West Virginia, our state’s long-term flood-recovery initiative aimed at strengthening impacted communities. Through RISE West Virginia, I announced a public-private program to provide grants to small businesses affected by the recent flooding.
This effort received an early boost from Brad Smith, a native West Virginian and chairman and CEO of Intuit, one of the world’s leading financial software companies. In addition to providing software and training for impacted small businesses through his company, Brad and his wife, Alys, have pledged a family donation of $500,000 to our grant program.
The ultimate goal is to reach at least $2 million from a combination of private donations and state dollars that otherwise could have been part of the Racetrack Modernization Fund. Interested donors are asked to contact the West Virginia Development Office, and eligible small business can apply through the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded to eligible small businesses based on need and recommendations from a review committee. To be considered, small businesses must be located in one of the 12 counties included in the federal disaster declaration, have had a verifiable and operational business at the time of the June 2016 floods and be in good standing with the state. The review committee will look at each business’s commitment to retaining or creating jobs, among other considerations.
It’s going to take all of us – from the local, state and federal governments to neighbors-helping-neighbors – to rebuild what was taken from us last month. As we continue working to get people back in homes, RISE West Virginia represents an all-hands-on-deck approach to getting businesses back open and West Virginians back to work.
This is what we do best as West Virginians – we come together. Our goal is more than to simply rebuild. We want our communities to rise above this disaster and become stronger than ever before.
Applications for RISE West Virginia small business grants are available now for those in need at WVFLOOD.com, the state’s official flood recovery website.