Natural Disasters Raise Concerns for California Small Businesses

By Marina DeWit, Region 9 Advocate 

While in Los Angeles, Advocacy visited the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz).  This organization was created to serve as the State of California’s leader for job growth and economic development efforts.  With 3.9 million small businesses in California, the state established the Office of Small Business Advocate (OSBA).  It provides information and assistance to small businesses to help them succeed in the California marketplace by hosting a variety of summits, forums and interagency meetings.

During our meeting, the main concern was about helping small businesses prepare for and recover from a disaster.  With the current fires burning in multiple areas of California, there is no data to determine the damage to home-based and digital businesses.  When the firefighters are battling flames and smoke, they can only establish if the areas they are in are commercial or residential.   There are no signs on homes specifying what home-based small business may be there.  The concern grows not just for mom-and-pop shops, but those “one man/woman” operations that could be bloggers, home decorators, event planners, personal trainers, graphic designers, tutors, online virtual assistants, travel agents, and such that don’t need a commercial office space to conduct their business.

Even though natural disasters can happen at any time, 75 percent of small businesses don’t have a disaster plan in place.  According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40 percent of small businesses don’t reopen after a natural disaster due to the high cost of repairing damages.  Even if the small business does reopen, more than half of them take at least three months to recover.

Being prepared for a natural disaster is important for any size business.  Educating stakeholders on economic recovery and having readily available resources for guidance would encourage the reopening of the smallest of businesses.

Marina DeWit serves as the Region 9 Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. Dewit works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of Region 9 to Washington DC. She can be reached at