by Dean Whittaker

Small businesses have been one of the hardest hit economic sectors along the Gulf Coast . While teaching at the ACCRA program in Dallas this month, I learned from the research directors in Mississippi and Louisiana how difficult it has been to locate and support this important sector of their economies. In many cases, the employees of these firms have been relocated to various parts of the country. The disruption of cash flow and the dispersal of their employees will cause extremely difficulties on top of the physical damage to their buildings and equipment. The slow response of insurance companies and federal loan programs adds to their difficulties. It is estimated that 60% of the 70,000 small businesses within the region will fail.

In response to these challenges, both Mississippi and Louisiana have created special no-interest loan funds to help bridge the gap. If you would like to donate to these funds you may do so at the following websites: for Louisiana and for Mississippi .

While attending IEDC annual meeting this week, I heard Michael Olivier, Louisiana Secretary of Commerce, speak. He told the 2,000 attendees that we cannot comprehend the damage and destruction by seeing it on television. He said that to see it in person is overwhelming, especially when looking into the eyes of a person who has lost everything and seeing a broken heart.