Flood cost Cedar Rapids businesses could reach 'tens of millions'

Nearly 100 businesses apply to flood recovery grant program

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CEDAR RAPIDS — For many, the second-highest flood in Cedar Rapids history quickly has become a distant memory. Just days after its near 22-foot crest in September, the Cedar River receded into its banks, the city’s evacuation zone was lifted and the community for the most part returned to business as usual.

But while the damage from the 2008 flood was immediately visible, with buildings inundated with water, its 2016 successor hasn’t left area businesses and not-for-profits unscathed.

While city officials still are collecting data through one-on-one interviews and a survey to find out the economic impact of the flood, many believe that cost to be considerable.

“I think it’s certainly safe to say it’s going to be in the tens of millions (of dollars),” said Jasmine Almoyaed, Cedar Rapids economic development manager.

A final report, with a complete economic impact estimate, should be completed by early next year, she said.

Joel Kane’s Bata’s Restaurant, 1006 Third St. SE, is one of nearly 100 small businesses to apply for flood recovery assistance to help mitigate the cost of the flood. While physical damage to the building amounted to about $9,000, Kane said the biggest hit was having to close for 19 days.

“We were on track to have the best year to date for the restaurant, and at this point I think we’re just trying to get our feet back on the ground and keep our heads above water,” Kane said. “We probably lost the better part of 10 to 15 percent of our annual revenue.”

Bata’s is one of 95 small businesses that have applied for an estimated $250,000 in grants. More than half of that has been raised in donations so far.

The grant program, the Jobs and Small Business Recovery Fund, was created — with $75,000 in seed money from the Cedar Rapids Assistance Revolving Loan Fund — by the city of Cedar Rapids, in partnership with the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation (GCRCF), the Small Business Development Center and the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

Applicants must be for-profit businesses, have 50 or fewer employees and be located within the flood’s 28-foot elevation evacuation area declared by the city.

Approved applicants can receive up to $5,000 or up to 50 percent of lost sales, product and additional flood costs. Grants are awarded to businesses that needed a physical location to generate revenue and had at least one day of zero revenue as a result of flood evacuation.

Doug Neumann, president of the Metro Economic Alliance, said some grants are still being processed and 44 grants — about $155,000 — have been awarded so far.

Grants have averaged $3,520, and 17 businesses have received the maximum $5,000. Meanwhile, the smallest grant has been for $75.

Fewer than 10 applications have been denied for not meeting requirements, Neumann added.

Kane said Bata’s received the maximum $5,000 through the program. And while the funds will help, they don’t come close to the overall loss, he said.

Almoyaed noted the grant fund is meant to aid businesses, not cover all losses.

“We’re certainly not trying to make this a windfall for anybody,” she said.

In 2008, businesses closed, structures were inundated with water and buildings were later gutted for repairs, so the damage was evident. This year was different, said Les Garner, GCRCF president.

“I think it’s been different than raising money in 2008 because the damage is not immediately visible — it was the cost of moving out and moving back in, it was the cost of lost merchandise or goods, it was in not being able to pay your employees,” Garner said. “Those are not things that are visible when you walk down the street in the evacuation zone.”

To assist in raising funds for the grant program, The Gazette Company is selling a photo book documenting the 2016 flood, called “Epic Stand.” All proceeds from the sales, minus production costs, go to the grant program.

GCRCF also has created a 2016 Non-Profit Recovery Fund to provide not-for-profits with up to $5,000 in flood-related grants for evacuation, lost revenue and other expenses. Those applications must be submitted by Dec. 5.

Garner said close to 25 area not-for-profits incurred costs from the flood.

In addition to businesses, communities in 19 Iowa counties reported more than $22 million in damages during the flood — Linn County took the biggest hit, with officials estimating the toll at $12.7 million, according to preliminary government assessments.

In Linn County, the damage estimated at $12,742,469 includes about $11.3 million for the city of Cedar Rapids, about $630,000 for the county, $314,000 for the city of Palo and $373,000 for the Mercy Medical complex.

l Comments: (319) 339-3175; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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