Disaster Recovery for Economic Development

March 10, 2021 Bethany Meys

Last month, we wrote about the importance of Disaster Preparedness and its importance for mitigating damage within a community. But that’s only the beginning. This month’s article will guide you through what your community needs to do in the wake of a disaster.

Following a disaster, a community must act. A post-disaster economic impact study should be conducted to assess the physical damage and economic damage. Additionally, an economic development organization should lead a post-disaster economic recovery planning process to fully assess the situation on the ground. The economic development organization must work with the community and key stakeholders to create a plan with action strategies and priorities. In addition to this plan, an effective communications strategy should be incorporated to ensure public is aware of planning efforts and to build community support. Along the way there are several best practices to keep in mind:

Community Image

Post disaster images of your community can be extremely detrimental to your community’s image, which in turn can reduce the number of people who want to visit and live in the community. To mitigate harm to your community’s image, evaluate the situation once a disaster occurs and define and describe it. Local experts should be involved in this process to provide local context and credibility. Establish a protocol for communicating with key staff, volunteers, key stakeholders and new channels. This reduces the possibility of false information and negative perceptions Maintain on top of new channels by providing consistent updates. Successful branding and strategizing will help an area grow effectively post disaster.

Identify Emerging Industries

IEDC stresses diversifying your economic post disaster, “a diverse industry portfolio enables regional economies to better withstand a disaster’s impacts and return to productivity more quickly.” Dig into the data to identify emerging industries within the economy and foster their growth to create a resilient economy. A community can work to create a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and identify projects to launch recovery. The recovery effort should include workshops to grow export companies and attain funding for them. Trends show that sectors that were growing before the disaster continue growing post disaster while sectors that were declining prior to disaster decline dramatically as a result of the disaster. Therefore, it is crucial to build on economic drivers and identify target markets for growth and success. Funding, infrastructure and housing, and tourism amenities all play large roles in the long term economic wellbeing of a region.

Ultimately, the success of businesses depends on their own determination and ingenuity. However, economic development organization can play a vital role in providing resources and stability for redevelopment.

Business Recovery

Disasters can cause a number of disruptions to business as usual. In extreme cases business locations will be damaged and may need to relocate. In these circumstances a community should map businesses that are affected based on location to target assistance efforts. This may include identifying alternative worksites for businesses to conduct business at or providing businesses access to networks and capital. The community should partner with an economic development organization to serve as the catalyst, research, organizer and resource provider in these efforts.

Furthermore, it is important to note that new businesses may emerge or flourish as a result of disaster recovery efforts such as prime contractors, subcontractors, and lending agencies. As these businesses aid in recovery, their services will most likely shrink to some degree following a full recovery.

Finance Small Businesses

Generally small businesses are more vulnerable to disasters than large businesses. They often rely on funding assistance to rebound from natural disaster. There are several financing avenues that assist small businesses including consumer recovery loans, business recovery loans, public business loans, and grants/forgivable loans. For example, offering loans with no payments for the first six months can help to jump start businesses and consumers to make purchases again. Coordinate state and federal agencies, nongovernment partners and stakeholders to expand funding opportunities and efficiently distribute funding throughout the community. Additionally, support small businesses by offering workshops and webinars on funding opportunities and updated recovery plans.

Most importantly, successful assistance programs focus heavily on data. As previously mentioned, economic trends occurring prior to the storm are intensified after the storm. This ensures that financing is attributed to sectors that are slated to succeed.


For more information on how to recover from a disaster please visit: http://restoreyoureconomy.org/recovery/

Image source: Unsplash