Rebuilding Ojai Like a Phoenix Rising

Helping Businesses in Ojai Now

From the Ojai Chamber of Commerce.

Our friends in the Ojai business community, following is a summary and update on what we know about the fire’s impacts to business and what we’re working on for recovery. I have taken most of this email from a message sent by the EDC-VC. Bear with us on the length of this message.
First, our hearts go out to all those who lost homes and so much in the disaster.  While the emergency isn’t over, it is both humbling and inspiring to witness the outpouring of understanding, support and spirit for a shared recovery for all.
On the business side, we’ve been far more fortunate in escaping immediate material loss.  Still, the impacts are profound and will be long-lasting.
Lost Sales:  The most significant impact to our economy-both now and moving forward-is the interruption to regular commerce, with small retailers and service firms suffering the greatest losses.  The fire couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Small businesses in Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Carpinteria, Summerland and much of Santa Barbara have been shut down, with business at a standstill.
As of Saturday morning, Montecito is under mandatory evacuation orders and the winds seem intent on driving the fire to the sea. In many cases our businesses are closed,
and for those that are open, consumers are staying home. Our concern is that the pattern for lost sales may continue, as visitors may avoid the region for some time. The impacts may be particularly acute to hospitality and tourism and to the retailer and service firms that depend on visitations.

The Economic Context:  It will be months before we have a reliable economic impact, though here’s some narrow, but considerable context to consider:

  • Retail alone in Ventura County employs some 39,000 workers, or 12% of the region’s jobs, and represents more than 6% of our total regional economy.
  • Other Services represents another 10,000 jobs.
  • For the impacted west county communities of Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore, the fire’s impacts may reverberate to more than 10,000 jobs in just these two sectors alone.
  • In the Ojai Valley, the leisure and hospitality sector is at a standstill, impacting some 1,300 jobs and 30% of the Valley’s economy.
What’s the Path Forward?

Most immediately, we’re advising impacted businesses to do four things:

  1. For business technical assistance, including access to capital, contact our Small Business Development Center805-409-9159,alondra.gaytan@edcsbdc.org.  We have professional, no cost business advising services immediately available.  We will also be a point of contact for information and referral for other Small Business Administration and FEMA assistance for business as it becomes available. We’ve added a link to our website, http://edc-vc.com/, for direct client registration for services and links to other resources.  We’ll be adding to this regularly as additional state and federal resources become available.
  2. Business Insurance:  If you’ve had any interruption in service or lost sales, immediately inform your insurance agent and determine whether you have any coverage.  You may or may not be covered, but for accessing any future disaster assistance, it may be critical that you’ve made and exhausted any insurance claims. If you have smoke/fire damage to your home or  business, save your dirty air filters and used vacuum bags to use for confirmation of the impact of smoke and fire on your home and/or business.
  3. Unemployment:  If you-as a self-employed person-or any of your
    employees has lost work, immediately file or advise your workers to file for unemployment insurance.  Be sure to indicate the first date of lost work and clearly state that the fire is the cause for the loss.  See attached for information on how or where to file for unemployment insurance.
  4. Register for information at http://venturacountyrecovers.org/.  Also, for access to a comprehensive set of services and information, we recommend you check in at the Local Assistance Center, in Ventura at the Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill RoadMonday through Saturday 9:00 AM to 7:00 PMSunday9:00 to 4:00.  There will also be a satellite center open in Ojai, starting Monday, at 401 South Ventura Street8:00 to 5:00.  We will have Small Business Development Center representatives at these sites on a rotating basis.

More detail to come on State and Federal resources:  See the attached Business Recovery Resources document from CalOES and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.  This is only a preliminary summary of resources, pending additional regional assessment by FEMA and the US Small Business Administration.  We anticipate a broader menu of resources will soon be available, but it’s dependent first on the assessment, final declaration and direction to SBA, which is not yet completed by the federal agencies.  Please check with us regularly and we’ll post updates as they become available.  Meanwhile the guide provides contact detail and information on a broad set of issues.

Whatever You Do, Buy Local!  As noted above, the greatest economic impact to the business community is by lost sales during the holiday period and lingering ahead.  We know that the sales can’t be made up in just a few weeks’ time.  Knowing that, we appeal to everyone to do their best in shopping local, investing in our local merchants and communities.  Our partners at the Chambers of Commerce, Visitors and Convention Bureau, Downtown Organizations, cities and county are all collaborating to promote buy local campaigns.  These efforts will extend into the new year, so please keep your local businesses in mind not just now, but continuously.
 Donating to HELP of Ojai – HELP of Ojai has said it does not need cash or clothing donations now. It does have a dire need for personal hygiene products – body soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry detergent, body lotion, toilet paper, etc. Take these donations to the West Campus on HWY 150 just past Flora Gardens.
On Lending:  We’re working on the implementation of a new, short-term business interruption assistance loan program, and expanding our resources in lending generally.  We should have more on this early next week.  Meanwhile, we approved our first short-term business recovery loan today, using existing capital resources.
We should have some specific information about lending to send you on Monday or Tuesday, December 18 or December 19.
There will be a satellite lending office set up at the Ojai Valley Woman’s Center at 441 East Ojai Avenue on Thursday December 21 and Friday, December 22. More information to follow.
This recovery will take time. Receiving financial assistance may take longer than you anticipate, but the Chamber, working with EDC-VC is trying to accelerate the process.
Six things you can do on your social media channels:
  1. Show new photos of open businesses, neighborhoods, and parks.
  2. Include the dates the photos were taken in the caption so that people can see what we look like now.
  3. Don’t post photos of burned areas or smoke. The media is already covering this part of the story.
  4. Post about success stories and community efforts from local hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses.
  5. Post about holiday events or fundraisers that are happening.
  6. Be safe, be strong, have faith and care for those around you who are in need.


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