COLUMBUS — BusinessFirst! for a Greater Dayton Region, a collaboration of the Dayton area’s economic development departments, received the Ohio City/County Management Association’s annual award for intergovernmental cooperation at a reception on March 5 at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel.
After tornadoes devastated the Dayton Region last May, BusinessFirst! representatives visited 418 companies to evaluate the impact of the storms, and to connect companies to resources and aid. The group organized Disaster Recovery Business Walks in Trotwood, Harrison Township, and Vandalia. Staff and volunteers split into small groups to meet with business owners. After talking with companies, BusinessFirst! estimated over $8.5 million in structural damages, lost inventory and sales losses. In the areas visited, 73 percent of businesses had to temporarily close.
Following these meetings, BusinessFirst! connected companies to disaster relief programs like the Small Business Administration’s Business Disaster Loan program and sent collected data to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the storm response.
“If we hadn’t had this organization already set up, the disaster response would have been far more difficult to pull together,” said Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge. “Because we had the BusinessFirst! network in place, we were able to reach a lot of businesses very quickly after the tornadoes.”
BusinessFirst! was founded by Montgomery County in 2001, and now includes 34 jurisdictions from five counties in the Dayton Region. Since its inception, the organization has helped more than 7,800 businesses, serving as the front door for local businesses to connect to resources.
“Business Walks have been a big part of how we connect to our area’s business leaders,” said BusinessFirst! Executive Chair Steve Brodsky. “These walks have been a great way to build relationships, and it helped to sit down with business owners after the tornadoes.”
The organization has worked with companies for nearly 20 years, helping them with things like navigating regulatory processes, finding qualified workers, business expansion, and overcoming barriers.
“We’re so thankful to all of our partner organizations for making BusinessFirst! the success it is today,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman. “We want businesses across the region to know that we’re here to help, no matter what issues they may be facing.”
BusinessFirst! works with more than 100 partners who provide resources to businesses, including help with financing, logistics and supply chain, workforce training, market research, and navigating government regulations.
“Starting and running a business is a challenge. We want all business owners to be successful, and that’s why this organization was started,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Carolyn Rice. “This organization helps navigate the many resources available, and that’s why it has continued for so long.”
For more information on BusinessFirst!, visit www.businessfirstdaytonregion.com.