More than 70 businesses suffered nearly $28 million in damage as a result of the Black Forest fire, according to the Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center.
Those are initial findings compiled by the SBDC, based on reports filed by Black Forest businesses seeking help in the fire's wake. The center, part of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' College of Business, is overseeing business assistance programs and resources at the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center, which was activated to help homeowners and business people who suffered losses in the fire.
SBDC officials are encouraging businesses affected by the fire to visit the Disaster Assistance Center as a first step toward seeing what financial aid and other help is available to them. That assistance includes determining eligibility for low-interest loans that can be used to operate businesses, obtaining unemployment benefits and finding temporary office space.
The SBDC also is partnering with other organizations and businesses to make grants available that could provide stop-gap funding for businesses that might need to meet a payroll, pay a bill or buy a piece of equipment.
The center also provided help after the Waldo Canyon fire last year, but the Black Forest blaze is proving to be the polar opposite of the 2012 fire, as far as businesses are concerned, SBDC officials say.
Mountain Shadows, which took the brunt of the Waldo Canyon fire, is a residential area with few home-based businesses, said SBDC Executive Director Aikta Marcoulier. Other than the destruction of the nearby Flying W Ranch, few businesses suffered physical damage. The real impact was in lost sales and revenues at tourism-related businesses and attractions, restaurants and hotels on the Springs' west side and in Manitou Springs and Teller County. That figure was at least $8.2 million.
But key Black Forest intersections are home to buildings that house small restaurants, feed stores, automotive repair shops and numerous other businesses. Meanwhile, Black Forest is honeycombed with home-basedartist studios, beauty salons, professional services and other businesses.
The damage to those buildings totals $27.9 million, based on reports assembled by the SBDC from 71 businesses that sought assistance as of Tuesday, according to Marcoulier and Ingrid Wood, SBDC disaster relief coordinator.
They also estimate that those businesses will lose $1.5 million in sales and revenue, although that number will likely rise as more assistance claims are filed, they said.
By contrast, about 70 businesses sought assistance during the first two weeks after the Waldo Canyon fire, Marcoulier and Wood said.
Rockin' B Feed & Supply southwest of Black Forest and Shoup roads was open Monday for the first time since last week's fire; the business was not damaged. But Bob Norris, who will mark his one-year anniversary July 1 as owner, said he lost five days of sales and income, while his business has been donating feed, pet food and other items to fire victims. So he'll likely look into his options for financial assistance, Norris said.
"Your worry about your own business fades when you know in that plume of smoke so many people are losing their homes," said Norris, who worked 12 years for the business before taking over as owner.
Ryan Wanner, owner of the family-run R & R Coffee Cafe, a popular gathering spot at 11424 Black Forest Road, also re-opened Monday and was doing a strong business during its first two days.
But Wanner said Tuesday that R & R had received a delivery of more than 35 gallons of milk and a "sizeable load" of food only an hour before the fire began. All the food had to be thrown out after power was cut to the area, Wanner said; he was trying to determine a dollar value on the items as he worked with his insurance company.
"We filled a dumpster with everything we threw in," he said.
Wanner said he'll consider checking with the SBDC on what resources are available. But his immediate concern was getting his 5-year-old business - which moved across Black Forest Road to a new building in February - up and running.
R & R's survival will depend on how many Black Forest residents rebuild their homes and how long it takes for them to return, he said.
"I have faith in Black Forest, that all of us up here will survive," Wanner said. "It's just seeing how we survive."
WHERE TO GET HELP
The Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center — working with groups such as the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Springs SCORE — is spearheading disaster relief efforts for area businesses affected by the Black Forest fire, as it did a year ago after the Waldo Canyon fire:
• To seek help, visit the Disaster Assistance Center at the El Paso County Citizens Service Center, 1675 Garden of the Gods Road on Colorado Springs’ northwest side. Also, visit the SBDC web site at www.cssbdc.org or call 667-3803.
• Check back with the SBDC’s web site for updated information, and sign up for the SBDC’s electronic newsletter, which will also offer updates as they become available.
• To help assess the extent of the disaster, SBDC staffers at the Disaster Assistance Center will ask business people to provide information on their type of business, number of employees, estimated income, insurance coverage and estimated physical and economic loss, among other information.
• SBDC staffers will provide information on what types of disaster assistance resources and programs are available for area businesses, as well as answer questions about insurance coverage, legal matters and other concerns.
• Among programs available: Loans from the Colorado Enterprise Fund, which offers loans to qualified applicants of up to $10,000 at no interest for the first year, and 12 percent afterward. Loan programs also are available through non-profit Accion, a small business lender.
• Computer laptops are available for use by businesses at branches of the Pikes Peak Library District, while other businesses are offering free information technology services and temporary office space.
• The SBDC also is partnering with other groups to make grants available that would provide stop-gap financial aid to businesses.
• Employees also can file unemployment claims with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for work missed because a business was destroyed or forced to close temporarily. Go to www.colorado.gov/cdle and click on “file or re-open an unemployment claim.” Or, call (800) 388-5515. Claims also can be filed on-line at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, also located in the El Paso County Citizens Service Center.
Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228 Twitter @richladen
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