UWF in the Community

Florida SBDC at UWF provides recovery resources to small businesses following Hurricane Michael

The Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of West Florida is playing a critical role in helping small business owners recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Consultants from the Florida SBDC at UWF are working extended hours at two emergency response mobile assistance centers and several business recovery centers in Panama City and surrounding areas to assist business owners secure Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans and U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans.

Florida SBDC at UWF provides recovery resources through their mobile assistance programs following Hurricane Michael

“I am very proud of our staff,” said Kelly Massey, regional director with the Florida SBDC at UWF.  “Immediately following Hurricane Michael, we rolled up our sleeves to help area business owners apply for state and federal disaster assistance. These businesses were in dire need of funding in order to get operational again as soon as possible. We quickly responded to their needs and it has made a huge difference.”

The bridge loan program, administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in partnership with the Florida SBDC Network and Florida First Capital Finance Corporation, is a short-term, interest-free loan intended to help businesses bridge the gap until long-term assistance is available, such as insurance proceeds or federal assistance.

Under the program, small businesses with fewer than two employees are eligible for loans up to $25,000. Small business owners with two to 100 employees can apply for loans up to $50,000 and, in special circumstances, may be eligible for a loan up to $100,000. These loans are interest-free for up to one year.

Since the storm, the state has received 466 emergency bridge loan applications requesting nearly $20 million. As of December 5, $14.8 million in loans have been disbursed, with an additional $2 million in requests being reviewed.

As a member of the state’s emergency response team, the Florida SBDC Network Headquarters, part of UWF’s Division of Research and Strategic Innovation, is working in collaboration with the U.S. Small Business Administration, DEO and other state and federal agencies to coordinate recovery efforts across the Panhandle.

“Hurricane Michael was a devastating storm that caused widespread impact to small businesses across the Panhandle,” said Michael W. Myhre, CEO of the Florida SBDC Network. “We know that access to capital is critical in helping small businesses get back on their feet and we’re proud to work alongside our partners to do all that we can to make sure business owners secure the necessary funds to rebuild and reopen.”

As part of a statewide service network of more than 40 centers, the Florida SBDC at UWF is based in the UWF College of Business and has helped aspiring and existing small business owners grow and succeed for more than 40 years. The Florida SBDC at UWF maintains offices in Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Milton, Navarre and Crestview serving Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Jackson, Washington, Bay, Gulf and Calhoun counties.

The emergency bridge loan program deadline was recently extended until Dec. 31 for Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Wakulla, Walton and Washington counties.

For more information on assistance center locations or how to apply for a disaster loan, contact the Florida SBDC at UWF at 850.474.2528 or visit sbdc.uwf.edu/hurricane- michael-relief.