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Edtiorial: Support local businesses in wake of Irma

While Hurricane Irma evacuees stream back into coastal Georgia and the community returns to normal, citizens should remember to support their local businesses, which likely got hammered financially because of the storm and mandatory evacuation.

 

Savannah’s small locally owned businesses help make up the backbone of the community’s economy. While Irma caused considerable flooding on Tybee and in other low-lying coastal neighborhoods, it probably was equally devastating to a number of small businesses that closed their doors as the city emptied and are now struggling to reopen.

When businesses close even temporarily, the hit to the bottom line is usually immediate. In Houston, which is still reeling from the hit of Hurricane Harvey, business losses have been estimated to be in the billions of dollars. Some businesses may go out of business, throwing people out of work during a time when they really need their paychecks.

While it’s too early to gauge the financial impact of Irma, some national news organizations are ominously reporting that losses from Irma could top those of Harvey.

What businesses and their employees count on during tough times is customer support. As Savannah-area businesses reopen and their employees return to work, what they need more than anything is a stream of customers.

It has been up to four days since Saturday’s mandatory evacuation of Chatham County that many of these businesses have heard their cash registers ring. While many large employers can absorb a temporary loss of business, many smaller ones cannot. Some may be barely hanging on as it is, as brick-and-mortar businesses continue to get pummeled by consumers who choose to do their shopping online. A hit from Irma could push some over the edge.

Among those who would feel the sting are hard-working employees who evacuated and are now returning to their homes and jobs. Especially hard-hit are those who work in the city’s hospitality industry — servers, bartenders and other staffers who largely rely on tips and who often live hand-to-mouth.

For many of them, not being able to work means not being able to pay bills or put food on the table. Unfortunately, they aren’t alone. Many hourly employees who don’t work in the hospitality industry are in the same precarious boat. Irma has put many of their employers in tough positions. For some of them, hurricane-related business losses will be difficult to sustain and cover.

Fortunately, Savannah has a close-knit and supportive business community, along with a thriving Buy Local group. Studies have shown that supporting local businesses has a positive ripple effect on all businesses. For example, research shows that for every $100 that a consumer spends at a local business, $73 stays in the local economy compared to just $43 for the chains. Further findings show the locals kept 70 percent more money in the city’s economy for every square foot they occupy than the chains.

Locally owned businesses do much more than provide needed jobs and stimulate the economy. They also tend to be active corporate citizens who support community-minded causes and contribute to local causes in numerous ways, including youth and civic groups.

As more businesses reopen and the Savannah area returns to normal after Irma, people should remember to support their local businesses that also support this community.

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Tue, 11/21/2017 - 10:31pm

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