The Chamber Foundation Partners with IBM to Support Businesses Impacted by Disasters

April 30, 2018

In August 2017 and September 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma (both category 4 storms at landfall) tore through the states of Texas and Florida, leaving many communities with significant physical and economic damage.  IBM Corporate Citizenship and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) partnered to provide support for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) impacted by the storms in both states.

In Texas, IBM consultants held resiliency workshops in Houston, Victoria, and Bay City in October 2017. These workshops brought together SMB owners, local nonprofits, and Chamber of Commerce representatives to share strategies and experiences during the preparation and recovery process. IBM resiliency experts walked participants through a business continuity framework and also introduced them to a digital disaster planning workbook. The workshops provided a unique opportunity to foster relationships across different recovery organizations in hopes of a more unified approach to recovery moving forward.

In Florida, the IBM team prepared for the workshops by visiting affected regions to canvas post-storm conditions, assess impacts, and conduct a business needs assessment. They interviewed more than 80 small business owners and 50 local recovery stakeholders across 7 counties, which helped them to understand the full spectrum of impacts across the region. As a result, Fort Myers and St. Augustine were identified as the cities best suited for resiliency workshops. Fort Myers was directly hit, and the violent winds and rain damaged several business districts and utility disruptions interrupted business operations for weeks following the storm.  Although St. Augustine was not directly hit by the storm, its vulnerable infrastructure led to significant flooding, damaging the business community, and decreasing tourism to the area.

The St. Augustine and Fort Myers workshops were held in February 2018. As with the Texas workshops, these sessions enabled participants to share their strategies and experiences during the preparation and recovery process, as well as help them prepare and sustain their businesses for future disasters. Additionally, SMB owners were offered the opportunity to submit their disaster plans post-workshop and receive virtual consultation with IBM experts.

Additional workshops are planned for both Texas and Florida in the coming months. If you are interested in learning more about these workshops, please contact Brooks Nelson at bnelson@uschamber.com.