Huntington Patch interviewed Town Councilman Mark Mayoka about the Hurricane Sandy and its impact on local business.
Question. Did a lot of Huntington businesses suffer from the effects of the storm?
Answer. Every business suffered from the effects of the storm in one way or another. In most cases, businesses lost 2-3 weeks worth of productivity. Time was lost in anticipation of the storm from the storm itself and restarting the businesses after power, phone and internet connectivity was restored.
Q. Did losses result from actual physical damage, such as lack of power, or loss of customers? Or recovery costs?
A. Retail establishments suffered a loss in sales due to customers being unable to gain access to the stores or the stores being closed. Professional service companies suffered a loss in sales by the virtue of not being able to service their customers (clients). In addition, some retailers and wholesalers suffered losses from spoilage of goods due to the loss of power. Actual physical damage was not a major factor. Most of the physical damage happened on the South Shore from flooding related issues.
Q. Do you have a sense of whether shopping has begun to pick up? Did the weather put a damper on business for this quarter?
A. In Huntington most businesses have begun to attain a state of normalcy, although most recently there has been an uptick of unemployment which implies that there is a macro problem overall.
Q. What is the biggest storm-related problem Huntington businesses (have) face(d)?)
A. The biggest storm related problem was a breakdown in lines of communication with customers and the failure in the ability to serve customers due to the loss of power. The loss of power disabled cell phone towers, refrigerators, boilers, lighting and land based communication lines.
Q. What can the town or county do to help businesses recover?
A. The town can continue to emphasize the need to support small businesses especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Through the Small Business Resource and Recovery Center I worked to promote Small Business Saturday, which emphasized the need for the residents to support small businesses and for the residents to shop local. I have also produced a program bringing together a panel of experts, including a representative from FEMA and the NYS, to alert small businesses in Huntington as to the availability of programs
Q. Are there any particular kinds of businesses that were particularly hard hit?
A. In Huntington I did not hear of any businesses being destroyed by the storm like what happened on the South Shore. Most businesses were hit equally.
Q. Are there businesses thriving because of the storm?
A. Tree removal service companies as well as many landscape companies are now thriving. My concern is that there have been reports of price gouging by these companies taking advantage of the situation. Generator installation companies are also thriving. No one wants to go through that ordeal again if they have the financial wherewithal to pay for the installation of a back-up generator.
Q. Do you think businesses were, in general, prepared for the storm and aftermath?
A.I do not think businesses were adequately prepared. I do not know of any business that had a real disaster back-up plan. It appeared that businesses innovated and became extraordinarily creative.
Q. What lessons should businesses take from this natural disaster or other crises?
A. The most important lesson is to have a disaster preparedness program. Five lessons that I learned from the World Trade Center still apply:
A) Nobody cares more about your business than you. So realize from the get go that you are ultimately responsible for saving your business.
B) Save the core of your business first. This may be files, data bases, hard drives and phone numbers.
C) Save any computers and office equipment or vehicles where possible.
D) Establish an emergency workspace.
E) Re-establish communication with your clients or customers. Provide assurances that you are functioning or will soon be functioning to serve their needs.
Q. Did the storms have an impact on jobs in Huntington and if so, what?
A. I do not think we will be able to see what impact, if any, that the storm had on the job front until at least several months have passed.
I am going recommend to our Federal Representatives to provide grants to small businesses similar to the program launched in the aftermath of September 11th. Grants should be provided based on prior years sales and should be highest where small businesses were most affected. Let’s call the worst areas affected the red zone and work out from that point geographically.