SBA honors Hill for outstanding disaster recovery efforts

WASHINGTON – A Mississippi mayor who championed his city’s post-disaster economic recovery, a volunteer who developed a long-term emergency response plan for a small town in Oklahoma, and a pair of Staten Island entrepreneurs who stayed open for business and helped the area in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, will all be presented with the 2016 Phoenix Award on May 1 during a U.S. Small Business Administration National Small Business Week award ceremony.  SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet will present the awards to each of them.

Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.

William Hill, Mayor of Louisville, Mississippi, will receive the 2016 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official.

The tornado that hit Louisville on April 28, 2014 ripped a path of destruction that was half a mile wide, and 32 miles long. More than 200 homes and businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, and 10 people were killed.

Mayor William Hill and the residents of Louisville were looking forward to the creation of 200 new jobs after the city signed a contract with Winston Plywood and Veneer, a manufacturer of specialty plywood products, who would take over a former Georgia Pacific plant. The tornado destroyed the plant, creating another economic blow to the city of 6,600.

After overseeing the search and rescue efforts with local first responders and coordinating the initial recovery, Mayor Hill shifted his focus to Louisville’s long-term economic recovery. He reached out to the parties involved in the Winston Plywood and Veneer deal, which included investors, state and federal officials, to encourage the company to renew their commitment to build the plant in Louisville.

On January 30, 2015, Mayor Hill welcomed Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and officials from Winston Plywood and Veneer for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of a new, state-of-the-art plywood mill. The project represents an investment of $50 million and will create 400 new jobs in Louisville.  Chris Fox of Moore, Oklahoma will receive the 2016 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer.

Chris Fox was working as a filmmaker/wedding photographer in May 2013 when a devastating tornado struck Moore. The storm destroyed entire city blocks, killed 24 people and left damages of $2 billion in its wake.

The next morning Chris gathered a group of ten volunteers to help with the massive cleanup task.  He assumed a leadership role, and city officials took notice.  He organized a meeting at the church, and tweeted a request for more volunteers using the hashtag #ServeMoore.

More than 3,000 people showed up the next day, bringing brooms, rakes, shovels and bags to haul away the debris. Within days the group of volunteers swelled to more than 10,000.   When city leaders established the Serve Moore Community Renewal Center, they asked Chris to become its executive director.

Chris established a protocol which included emergency preparedness for future disasters, while teaching volunteers how to respond quickly to the next crisis.

In March 2015, a smaller tornado struck Moore.  #ServeMoore instantly mobilized to clean up debris and get needed supplies and resources to those in need, and also served as the hub where residents and businesses received recovery assistance.

Maryann Piazza and Stephen Piazza, President and CEO of Majestic Vending and Services, Inc., will receive the 2016 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery.   Majestic Vending and Services, Inc., began as a single gumball machine at a construction site in 1994.  The grit and determination of owners Maryann and Stephen Piazza made it possible for the company that provides vending, office coffee services, and bottled water delivery to the New York City area to succeed.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy’s ferocious winds toppled a tree next to Majestic’s warehouse, which crashed into the chimney, causing parts of the interior ceiling to collapse. Inventory, equipment, furniture and office supplies were destroyed.

The Piazzas turned to SBA and were approved for a disaster loan of $59,600. The loan gave them the capital needed to move forward with repairs, debris removal, and inventory and machine replacement.

Maryann and Stephen never closed the business, kept their customers, and did not lay off a single employee. In fall 2013, Majestic Vending and Services was chosen by the National Football League to help cater a VIP Super Bowl party at the Meadowlands on February 2, 2014.