Hurricane Harvey tore through Houston in August 2017, leaving the city forever changed. The category 4 storm created utter devastation, caused billions of dollars in damage and left small businesses crippled.
In order to make sure small businesses are better prepared for future hurricane seasons, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded Texas Tech University $750,000 to develop evidence-based, innovative financing strategies and associated tools to facilitate disaster preparation, recovery and long-term growth of small businesses in hurricane-prone regions. Texas Tech will partner with the University of Houston for the research.
"This important study enables us to collect extensive data on small businesses across industry sectors affected by Hurricane Harvey and perform comprehensive gap analysis of their financing needs," said Daan Liang, a professor in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering's Department of Civil, Environmental & Construction Engineering and a co-principal investigator (P.I.) on the grant. "Partnering with the University of Houston, we hope to play a meaningful role in helping businesses to survive and expand in future disasters."
The funds Texas Tech received are part of a larger $7.25 million grant distributed to communities throughout the State of Texas.
"President Donald Trump has committed to supporting Texas and helping the state recover since it was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. "The Department of Commerce is investing in the cities of Amarillo, Lubbock and Rockport, where the grant funds will serve a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act-designated Opportunity Zone, so they will be stronger and more resilient when confronted with extreme weather in the future."
Bradley Ewing, the C.T. McLaughlin Chair of Free Enterprise, a professor in the Department of Energy Commerce & Business Economics in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business and a co-P.I. on the grant with Liang, noted that certain areas of the research are unconventional.
"A unique feature of this research links economic and financial aspects of small businesses with wind engineering data," Ewing said. "We seek to add value to businesses and the communities in which they operate. Our results will identify the practices that enhance sustainability and make the economy better suited to handle hurricanes."
This project is funded under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, in which Congress appropriated to EDA $600 million in additional Economic Adjustment Assistance Program funds for disaster relief and recovery as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, wildfires and other 2017 natural disasters under the Stafford Act.
About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the EDA is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.