On September 28, Hurricane Ian barreled across Cuba and slammed into Florida’s coastline as a Category 4 storm. In the wake of its devastating flooding and 150-mile-per-hour winds, many residents are still recovering.
Enki Research projects a best-case scenario for damages that amounts to $66 billion. The more probable median estimate of $71 billion, however, ranks Hurricane Ian squarely in the middle of the top 10 costliest storms in US history.
Local corporations step up to aid in recovery
In the wake of Hurricane Ian, Florida corporations are helping the state return to normal with financial resources, expertise, and volunteered manpower. Stephen Schrutt — founder and CEO of Hunger Thirst Group — who grew up in Tampa, Florida, is one example. Over the years, Schrutt has invested back into his community by opening six innovative restaurants and bars.
In 2011, Schrutt opened The Avenue Eat + Drink which quickly became a favorite hangout amongst people of downtown St. Pete, especially brunch goers. His next two establishments, Park & Rec and Ballpark & Rec at Tropicana Field, bring the community together with classic arcade and lawn games such as Pac-Man, pinball, skee-ball and more. Schrutt also transformed a space in the heart of St.Petersburg, Central Ave, into the Cuban-inspired speakeasy Dirty Laundry, which operates as a coffee shop during the day, and transforms into a cocktail bar and lounge by night. Lastly, the newly opened Good Fortune is an Asian fusion concept with a sushi bar, cocktail lounge, and private karaoke room.
As an entrepreneur who has united St. Pete and Tampa Bay residents with food and fun for over a decade, it’s no wonder Schrutt was quick to rally the community in disaster relief. On October 7, 2022, The Hunger Thirst Group began by donating 10% of sales from all restaurants to fund Hurricane Ian relief efforts in Florida. The organization also established a donation drive at Park & Rec for supplies to aid victims in immediate need. To date, financial contributions through philanthropic events and partnerships exceed $15,000.
“We were able to reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian, but we know many others have not been as fortunate,” says Schrutt. “HungerThirstGroup is proud to collaborate with hurricane relief efforts. The community can join us by contributing Hurricane Ian supplies, such as garbage bags, infant-care items, and paper products at parkrectpa or parkrecdtsp.
The need for corporate philanthropy
Natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and tsunamis are increasing — both in frequency and intensity. With each passing scenario, they are leaving greater destruction in their wake.
According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the US has sustained 338 weather and climate disasters, costing over $1 billion in damages since 1980. During the 1980s, 31 US disasters totaled $201.5 billion. During the decade spanning 2010 to 2020, 128 catastrophic events more than quadrupled the cost to $918.8 billion.
Traditional funding from governments and nonprofits is not enough. Fortunately, corporate philanthropists like Schrutt are quick to take up the slack.
Local businesses are often the first with feet on the ground
When disaster strikes, local businesses are often first to mobilize expertise and community resources in relief efforts. Food, water, sanitation supplies, and medicine are needed urgently hours after disaster strikes. Local companies with feet on the ground have a vested interest in rebuilding infrastructure and community.
The needs are not met in a few short weeks, however. Years often elapse before the government awards the grants that rebuild homes. While disaster victims wait for Congress, FEMA, HUD, and state and local governments to unravel red tape, they are forced to live in damaged homes, find shelter with family or friends, sink money into renting while still paying their mortgages, or take FEMA-provided trailers if available. Local businesses speed up the bureaucratic process by offering loans to homeowners until funding comes through. Corporations bridge the gap in government funding to get their communities up and running quickly, creating a win/win situation for everyone involved.