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Funding the fire recovery for small business

This story is one of several from the May 7 issue about business owners who were part of the nearly $140 million in Small Business Administration loans made in the North Bay from October through April.

In the wake of the devastating wildfires last fall, there are stories of business owners who are making a comeback. In addition to tapping insurance policies and other resources, some of using SBA loans to rebuild.

Read more about business recovery from the October wildfires: nbbj.news/recovery

Fires don’t discriminate among homeowners, businesses or local contractors. All are vulnerable.

Chris Rhodes Construction was no exception.

Owner Chris Rhodes in October lost his house, garage, shop tools and other items, including a treasured bicycle — but was able to save his computer and work van, enabling him to continue working in a limited fashion.

Rhodes obtained a contractor’s license 32 years ago and built his own home in 1991 on 2 acres of land on Parker Hill Road in an unincorporated area off Fountaingrove Parkway in Santa Rosa.

As his business grew, he constructed hundreds of homes and had four full-time employees. When the fire started, Rhodes watched from his home as many houses he built for others went up in smoke.

He estimates that 13 of the homes he built from the ground up were destroyed, not to mention many more that he remodeled. He had a poster in his former office saying, “Your work will be here long after you are gone.”

That was not to be.

“I have a home-equity line of credit and applied for a personal loan but was turned down. We also applied for an SBA disaster-assistance loan to help with business losses,” Rhodes said. “SBA approved my loan application. Working with SBA was easy and involved just a few phone calls, however, at age 60, I really don’t want to assume more debt than I have to. We are still considering our options and using insurance money first. My wife and I informed SBA that we do not wish to take their loan right now. We have a year to decide whether or not to receive these funds and sign the final papers.”

Farmers Insurance covered 100 percent of the contents of their home without documentation, but replacing his construction tools, valued at $15,000, was still an issue.

Meanwhile, in recognition of National Small Business Week, April 29–May 5, an Intuit QuickBooks team had been looking for a small California business to help support as part of the company’s “Backing You” program.

The company picked contractor Chris Rhodes to receive gifts valued at $25,000 to help restore things he lost. The package included a check for $10,000, new tools, a computer, new software upgrades, fresh company logo branding for his truck and a replacement for his prized possession — a 10-speed bike he had owned since 1976.

The prize reveal took place Friday, April 27, at a Santa Rosa residential work site after Rhodes got an unusual request to arrive at 4 p.m. sharp, ostensibly to deal with construction issues. Awaiting him in hiding were 20 QuickBooks employees, a film team and family members and friends who ran out from behind the house carrying a large check, a new bicycle and a balloon banner spelling out “Backing You” while shouting, “Surprise!”

“My wife, Liz, and I were overwhelmed and grateful for this outpouring of support,” Rhodes said. “We want to thank Intuit — as well as the SBA — for what they have done and are prepared to do to help get our business up and running again at a time when contractors and construction workers are sorely needed to restore our communities. Our next challenge is obtaining a county building permit for my new detached backyard shop. We submitted plans weeks ago and still have not heard back. They promised to turn this around in four days, but we know there is a major backlog.”

Funding the fire recovery for small business

This story is one of several from the May 7 issue about business owners who were part of the nearly $140 million in Small Business Administration loans made in the North Bay from October through April.

In the wake of the devastating wildfires last fall, there are stories of business owners who are making a comeback. In addition to tapping insurance policies and other resources, some of using SBA loans to rebuild.

Read more about business recovery from the October wildfires: nbbj.news/recovery

North Coast Builders Exchange has been managing a larger tool-replacement program for contractors who lost them in the wildfires. On Nov. 22 it opened a Tool Replacement Center in Santa Rosa and by year-end distributed over $250,000 in equipment to more than 200 contractors.

“Tools and money are still coming in, and we’re exploring different ways to distribute them to do the most good,” said Keith Woods, CEO of the exchange, in an email.