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Survey seeks flood impact information from Cedar Rapids businesses

City will use results to make case for flood protection

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids business and rental property owners are being asked to complete a survey that the city hopes will help it make a forceful case for permanent flood protection to state and federal agencies and lawmakers.

The survey, mailed Monday to about 1,100 business and rental property owners and available online at http://smgs.us/3ka0, was developed through a collaboration of city staff, economic development organizations and individuals who assisted small businesses after the 2008 flood.

“We are trying to build a case for a permanent flood protection system by showing the true economic impact when flooding occurs,” said Jasmine Almoayed, economic development director for the city of Cedar Rapids. “We obviously know what the city had to pay to put a flood protection system in place, the measures we had to take for this event and damages to the city.

“We want to understand the true economic impact of what happens every single time the river gets above flood stage. It is loss of revenue for businesses that have to evacuate, loss of product, and so much more than the direct financial loss from flooding.”

Almoayed noted that businesses cannot file a claim through their flood insurance if they did not suffer actual water damage. Although some companies carry business interruption insurance, the single largest exemption is flooding.

“There are a lot of people who are still suffering from the financial impact, especially really small businesses who rely on last week’s income to pay this week’s bills,” she said. “That’s the information that we’re trying to get to paint a clearer picture of the threat to our community.”

The survey asks whether the business owns or rents its building, the dollar amount of damage to the property, the amount of damage to machinery and equipment, office supplies and inventory, and the costs of hiring contractors or renting equipment for flood protection.

Some businesses still are paying for the financial cost of the 2008 flood. Almoayed said the survey asks how much additional debt load the business will incur because of last month’s flood.

The lack of permanent flood protection also makes it more difficult to attract new employees and families to the community, Almoayed said.

“The target demographic that we’re trying to attract to the workforce — the 25-to-40-year-olds — care deeply about social offerings and amenities,” she said. “Where do we sell that? Where is the heart and soul of the quality of life in Cedar Rapids?

“This should be something that the state cares deeply about when they know that people are moving to metropolitan areas from small rural communities. Cedar Rapids and Des Moines are the two hubs where the state is going to grow its population.”

Almoayed said the survey responses will be tabulated, and only aggregate cost totals for the city will be shared with economic development officials, state and local government decision-makers, business and industry associations, not-for-profit organizations and other entities that play a role in flood recovery.

Almoayed said about 40 meetings have been set up over the next several weeks with large and small businesses to discuss specific flood-related concerns. She said city staff and representatives of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance are available for additional meetings.

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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