The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an office supply giant announced Tuesday they are partnering to provide help to New Jersey small businesses needing to recover from Hurricane Irene.
In 2007, the U.S. chamber started a natural disaster helpdesk for businesses through the Business Civic Leadership Center in order to fill a gap in recovery aid to small businesses.
“We kept seeing some consistent problems happening, especially with small businesses,” said Ines Pearce, senior adviser of the BCLC helpdesk. “There just aren’t a lot of resources that can stand up very quickly when something happens.”
“This gives (small-business owners) a resource to call into, and they can ask questions about anything — or if they just need a good idea of what the next step might be, we point them in the right direction,” Pearce said.
Office Depot funds the helpdesk through its foundation, and is augmenting the work being done by the help desk by offering free faxes, mobile phone charging and Wi-Fi access to small-business customers.
“Seventy percent of our core customers are small businesses,” said Owen Torres, Office Depot spokesman. “This is our way of helping them in their time of need.”
“When you’re talking about a community, people know their own local area. Office Depot is one of those places that people already go to they know where it is, and so it’s easy to connect them with the resources available there,” Pearce said.
“Right now, our people are still stuck in the flooding areas,” said Mark Lizano, department manager at the Office Depot in Paramus. “A lot of people that are coming in are looking for batteries, surge protectors, faxes.”
Lizano said his location is distributing flyers to customers to alert them to the assistance being offered by the store.
The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network, which is partially funded by the Small Business Administration, also announced Wednesday it will help the state’s small-business owners find the services they need to get back to normal.
“Whatever we can do, our experts are ready to help business owners rebound,” said the SBDC’s CEO and state director, Brenda Hopper, in the announcement. “And we will help them apply for SBA disaster loans when appropriate.”