Editorial: Economic cavalry arrives for burned-out Hadley businesses

Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Thanks to the federal government, new hopes could blossom for a dozen Hadley businesses in the new year. In the days after an Oct. 27 fire leveled the Norwottuck Shoppes on Route 9, business owners cast about for ways to recover. The Small Business Administration may be their salvation.

The federal agency is now taking applications for low-interest loans from the owners of businesses that lost everything in the fire. While borrowers must have solid credit histories and the ability to repay, the terms of these economic injury disaster loans, as they are known, are more lenient than conventional commercial loans.

The fire routed a long list of small businesses, many owned by people originally from other countries. In interviews with the Gazette, some of these owners spoke of how badly they want to remain in Hadley — but also noted how hard it can be to secure financing. In a flash, their own incomes were gone, along with the considerable number of jobs they provided in the community. Businesses burned out include the International Food Market, Casablanca Market, Bahn Mi Saigon, Mi Tierra, Mohawk Revenge Tattoo, the Chinese Kung Fu Wushu Academy and the Hadley Coin-Op Laundromat.

To get help from the SBA, Gov. Deval Patrick declared the fire an economic disaster — a finding borne out by a Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency survey conducted in connection with the governor’s request that the U.S. government provide help.

Six of eight businesses said they expected to see their revenues fall by 40 percent of more compared with the previous year — even with normal operations for nearly 10 months in 2013. Their owners estimated they would lose gross income of up to $42,000 — or between 78 and 82 percent of what they took in last year. That’s what happens in cases of disaster. Suddenly, these small businesses were out of business. The SBA can loan up to $2 million per applicant and charges 4 percent interest. Applications will be considered until next August.

Even with funding available, business owners face a tough year. The survey found that it will take them half a year to return to their trades. Not all will make it back.

But in their time of need, these business owners have received significant and continuing help from the town of Hadley, the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, state and federal lawmakers and their own clients and neighbors.

A month out from one of the worst nights of their lives, these people can now take advantage of a life-saving economic program. Help isn’t free and they must be judged to be good credit candidates. But these loans are lifelines and will make a difference.