Nearly 10 months after last September’s gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, more than 70 percent of the nearly 900 small, locally-owned businesses affected by the disaster have returned to pre-crisis operations, according to a status report provided by the collaboration of non-government organizations, nonprofits, municipalities and state government officials spearheading the recovery.
Since the explosions on Sept. 13, 2018, the coalition has conducted outreach to impacted businesses through nearly 4,000 site visits, phone calls and other efforts; helped small businesses secure $500,000 in loans; provided technical assistance in hiring, accounting and marketing; and assisted with claims filings. More than 200 businesses received resiliency training and specialized support.
As a result of the explosions and subsequent service disruptions, markets and restaurants lost their inventories; closed businesses lost their employees and key staff; and customers, who were forced to change their spending habits due to the explosions, were no longer frequenting their favorite coffee shops, convenience stores, salons and other businesses. Owners struggled to pay their bills, feed their families and afford housing.
While touting the progress, the coalition also cautioned that there is much work still to be done to support nearly 30 percent of businesses in the region that are not back to normal.
“As a small business owner who was affected by the gas explosions, I am all too familiar with the disruption and economic loss suffered by other business owners in the area,” said State Senator Barry Finegold. “Making those affected by the Columbia Gas explosions whole is among my top priorities as a State Senator, and I’m grateful to the Lawrence Partnership and participating organizations for providing these much-needed resources for small business owners. The majority of businesses are back to where they were before the explosions, thanks in large part to these stabilizing efforts.”