SBA: 2020 Phoenix Award Champions Honored for Outstanding Disaster Recovery Efforts

The  U.S. Small Business Administration today announced the 2020 National Small Business Week Phoenix Award winners for their outstanding and inspiring resilience in the aftermath of devastating disasters. 

The virtual National Small Business Week event, rescheduled from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be held September 22-24. This year’s National Small Business Week activities will include numerous educational panels providing retooling and innovative practices for entrepreneurs as our nation’s small businesses look to pivot and recover toward a stronger economy.  

Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials, and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.

This year’s recipients include two Texas small business owners who rebounded after massive inventory losses from Hurricane Harvey;  an Ohio County Commissioner who swiftly responded to the area’s needs following a tornado, and a volunteer from the Northern Mariana Islands who disregarded his personal losses to ensure the island’s recovery in the aftermath of  Super Typhoon Yutu.

The SBA congratulates the following 2020 National Small Business Week Phoenix Award winners:

Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery

Albert Terry Bourque Jr., President

Hope Bourque, Vice-President

TLR Homes

Vidor, Texas

Terry and Hope Bourque’s entire inventory of 28 new mobile homes as well as their office and storage buildings were destroyed in the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.

With damages assessed at $2 million, Terry immediately applied for an SBA disaster loan. The SBA declined the application because the business conditions at the time would make it difficult for the Bourque’s to repay a $2 million loan comfortably.

Terry realized he needed a plan to restart the business while reducing the loan amount required to cover his losses.  He disposed of the inventory of destroyed mobile homes.   After creating a makeshift office, he negotiated with his bank and restructured his credit line.

He also adjusted his marketing and sales strategy to save money and used new technology to reach a broader clientele.  By February 2018, TLR Homes showed a steady profit increase.

Terry moved the business to a new location and postponed onsite home staging, which saved furniture and décor replacement costs.  He also replaced some damaged office equipment, supplies, and tools from existing funds.  The money Terry saved brought the loan need down to $1 million. 

In March 2018, Terry contacted the SBA again, explaining how he had essentially restructured his business operations, resulting in a remarkable recovery.  Two months later, the SBA approved a $1 million loan for TLR Homes. Terry used the funds to buy more mobile homes, further boosting the business forward to more remarkable long-term recovery and success.      

Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official

Deborah A. Lieberman

Montgomery County Commissioner

Dayton, Ohio

Tornadoes devastated much of Montgomery County on May 27, 2019, leaving more than 4,500 damaged buildings and 80,000 residents without power in its wake.

Montgomery County Commissioner Deborah Lieberman’s first call was to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to report damage estimates and request assistance.   After touring the disaster area, she met with the Montgomery County Emergency Operations Center team to determine where the county’s resources should be focused to speed up the recovery operations.

Pre-disaster planning paid off.  In 2015 the county established a multi-agency digital emergency radio system, consisting of five towers strategically placed throughout Montgomery County.  The communications system allowed first responders, emergency managers, and public health and safety departments to contact each other and quickly begin rescue operations, despite the extensive power outage. 

Commissioner Lieberman visited the homes of worried individuals who were afraid to leave their damaged homes and ensured they received the help they needed.  She also worked with other county commissioners to waive reconstruction fees for homes and businesses. 

As the recovery continued, Commissioner Lieberman shifted her efforts to long-term recovery operations in response to future disasters.  She worked with FEMA to form the Montgomery County Long Term Recovery Committee, which encourages investment in individual and community recovery while promoting disaster preparedness programs. 

Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer

Phillip Thomas Mendiola-Long

San Jose, Tinian

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Super Typhoon Yutu hit Tinian on October 24, 2018.  The storm’s 180 mile-per-hour winds severely damaged Phillip Mendiola Long’s gas station, one of only two on the island.  The storm destroyed more than 3,000 homes, and Phillip’s residence suffered extensive damages.

Despite his losses, Phillip decided to share his remaining resources to support the island’s recovery.  He returned to the gas station to find that the winds had ripped out the only two gas pumps from their foundations.

Within 24 hours, Phillip and his staff had scavenged the island, found a hand pump, and built an extension line into the underground gas tank. The team could now begin pumping fuel for first responders, law enforcement officials, and city agencies involved in the recovery effort.   He also organized a volunteer effort to distribute generators donated by a local charity to disaster survivors.

Phillip reached out to Guam business contacts and gathered food, water, tents, first-aid kits, and other survival necessities for the disaster survivors. He used his office as a supply distribution center that stayed open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  Phillip drove to Tinian’s hardest-hit areas, personally delivering relief goods to those in desperate need.

Using social media, Phillip reached out to business contacts, family, and friends in Hawaii, Guam, Nevada, and Texas and asked for donations. His efforts netted 20 boxes of supplies and $15,000 in cash for the beleaguered island residents.

For registration and additional information on National Small Business Week, please visit sba.gov/NSBW.

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