Federal disaster planning funds available to hurricane-ravaged firms along Ga. coast

By David Pendered

Georgia manufacturers located along the coast can get a boost in their disaster planning from a federal grant being administered by an affiliate of Georgia Tech. The goal is to help employers recover more quickly and help get some 23,000 workers back to work and earning paychecks.

Irma, River Street

Federal funds are now availabe to help manufacturer plan for the consequences of natural disasters. The remnants of Hurricane Irma caused heavy inundation in Savannah, where this car was nearly submerged along River Street. File/Credit: wpde.com

The program has two purposes, Ben Cheeks, manager of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said in a statement released Tuesday.

“First, we want to assist as many manufacturers as possible and get them operating at pre-Hurricane Irma levels — that includes employment and fully contributing to the regional and state economies,” Cheeks said.

“The second part of this effort is to help them develop plans that they will already have in place to address future hurricanes and other natural disasters so they will positioned for as little disruption as possible in resuming operations,” he said.

GaMep intends to work with its colleagues at Georgia Tech, along with other partners at the local, state and federal levels. The list of partners include the Technical College System of Georgia.

Goals of the outreach program includes assessing the needs of manufacturers; the development of pre- and post-disaster protocols that account for the challenge of doing business after a natural disaster; and addressing financial constraints.

“We’re taking a 360-degree approach with this effort,” Cheeks said. “It’s designed to help position our coastal manufacturers proactively and ahead of the likely after-effects we will see in future storms that will affect the Georgia Coast.”

For those whose interests are far from the coast, the hurricanes of 2017 and 2016 can seem a distant memory. The storms of hurricanes Irma, last year, and Matthew, the year before, are still top-of-mind along the coast.

Hurricane Irma prompted Gov. Nathan Deal to order the mandatory evacuation of nearly 540,000 residents along the coast. Damages were estimated at a value exceeding $670 million. Hurricane Matthew inflicted damages of more than $500 million.

The federal grant aims to help create better outcomes following future storms. A total of $3 million was announced in November 2017 to provide recovery support to small businesses in Florida and Puerto Rico, according to a statement.

Coastal Georgia now is home to 408 companies that employee those 23,000 workers, according to a statement released Tuesday by Georgia Tech. Many of those companies suffered significant losses during Hurricane Irma in 2017, leaving workers idled and struggling to pay their bills.

The federal grant of $173,859 is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST was founded in 1901 and now is attached to the U.S. Department of Commerce, where it now provides measurement standards ranging from nanoscale devices to global communications networks, according to a report on its website.

The grants are provided through the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The partnership works with Georgia businesses to help them grow. Nearly 975 manufacturers worked with the entity last year and results include increased sales, by $217 million; reduced operating expenses, by $28 million; and the creation or retention of 1,557 jobs, according to a report on the partnership’s website.

Note to readers: Eligible manufacturer can learn more by contacting Ben Cheeks, GaMEP’s coastal region manager, at [email protected].

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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