Business & Economy

UWF Small Business Development Center assisting businesses in oil spill’s aftermath

Standing in the Casino Beach parking lot next to Pensacola Beach, University of West Florida President Judy Bense noted the lack of people there taking advantage of the area’s strongest tourism draw – its beautiful beaches.

“Why aren’t people here? The beach is fine,” said Bense, as she accompanied State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan and Ross Ellington of Florida State University, the chair of the Oil Spill Academic Task Force, on a tour of the area.

Loss of business and loss of jobs crowd the list of issues seeking attention following the April 20 explosion and continuing oil spill just off Louisiana’s coastline.

The UWF Small Business Development Center is already helping area business owners although oil has not been detected in Pensacola. Just this week, federal disaster area designation opened the door to Small Business Administration loans for impacted businesses. The center also is assisting businesses with “bridge loans” and claims against BP.

“Some of the business owners are not as savvy, such as charter boat captains or fishermen, and they have no idea how to put a price on the interruption to their business, and we help them with that. We help them assemble their records,” said Larry Strain, SBDC director. “We tell businesses to go back three or four years and isolate their revenues in this eight-week period to do a year-to-year comparison. We know this year would have been better than last year, but it is better to go back even further.”

There is no cap on the amount of a loan as long as the applicant can demonstrate the capacity to repay it. Application forms are completed and submitted electronically which helps to speed the process. “Some applicants, fishermen especially, live off the revenue that they make on a daily basis. They are living hand-to-mouth, which calls for moving quickly,” he said.

Along with loan application forms, the center is a one-stop shop for information – from advice on dealing with insurance companies to the types of financial help available. Two main types of loans:

SBA Loans: Administered through the U.S Small Business Administration, these loans are typically low interest, long-term and paid back by the business owner on a monthly basis. The current loans being made to businesses are called Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan: Administered by the state’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, these are signature loans, interest- and payment-free and paid back in a lump sum within either 90 or 180 days. They are designed to “bridge” the time gap between a disaster, such as a hurricane or flooding, impacting a business and other financial action, such as an insurance settlement or SBA loan. These loans are not available, but are expected to be available soon.

For more information or assistance, contact the SBDC, 401 East Chase Street, at the corner of Chase and Ninth Avenue, in downtown Pensacola or call (850) 595-0063. Currently, the center is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information is also available at

By Susie Forrester, University Marketing Communications