Black Businesses and Supporters Offer Harvey Aid in Spite of Own Obstacles

Hurricane Harvey

James Davis, a BE 100s auto dealer in Houston, figures his company had about $230,000 in losses caused by Hurricane Harvey.

There was some $130,000 in damages to eight vehicles owned by Gulfgate Dodge Chrysler Jeep destroyed by flooding. He plans to file insurance claims to cover those losses. Davis estimates the dealership lost another $100,000 in auto sales and servicing work because it lost a total of eight business days before and after the storm, affecting 115 employees.

“The really big damage for us was the loss of income to the business and our employees.”

Davis is president and CEO of J. Davis Automotive Group Inc., No. 23 on the BE Auto 50 list with revenues of nearly $127.9 million and owner of Gulfgate Dodge Chrysler Jeep.


Hurricane Harvey Hurricane Harvey’s Impact (Image: iStock/Karl Spencer)


Providing help to others when really needed 


Davis gave $1,000 a piece to 11 employees who had flood damage to their homes and were dislocated. Each employee got a $1,000 matching contribution from the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, a group Davis is a board member of.

He plans to donate $2,500 to the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce to distribute to smaller black-owned businesses affected by Harvey.

“Anytime you can help one of your employees you do it because they are like family and some of them had no insurance,” Davis says. “I also feel it’s my duty to help other minority businesses that may have suffered from the storm.”

Larger black-owned companies and entities that advocate, do business with, and support small black-owned businesses in Houston and surrounding areas are stepping up to help those entrepreneurial firms rejuvenate from the walloping storm.

The 2017 BLACK ENTERPRISE Entrepreneurs Summit was conducted in May in Houston. The event is one of the nation’s largest gatherings of entrepreneurs attended by more than 1,000 business leaders. Now, those Houston business leaders are leading efforts to rebuild the nation’s fourth-largest city post-Harvey.

The help is needed as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that 40% of small businesses that close after a disaster like Harvey don’t open back up. And the costs in damages from Harvey have been estimated at $190 billion. Five former living U.S. presidents have joined forces to raise money for those suffering from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  Online donations can be made at

The Greater Houston Black Chamber is using its foundation to raise money to distribute $1,000 relief grants to local black-owned small businesses that suffered damages from Harvey within the next month.

Courtney Johnson-Rose, the chamber’s board chair, says the business advocacy group, which provides services to more than 5,000 local businesses, has not determined how many businesses will get grants.

She says the chamber has so far presented $7,000 in grants to seven black owned small businesses. Recipients will be able to use the money to start the rebuilding process.

“The need continues to grow and we have received over 50 grant applications due to the fact that businesses are hurting,” Johnson-Rose says. “We plan to assist as many as possible. We continue to fund raise and need the help of our business network throughout the United States.”


More help needed from business network across America


The chamber has developed a three-part plan in collaboration with public and private partners from Texas. It includes providing small business loans, connecting members with direct access to FEMA and SBA resources, and advocating for members’ participation in recovery initiatives.

The chamber hosted a town meeting on Tuesday that was attended by more than 200 black-owned small businesses who learned about procurement opportunities and got tips on how they can get disaster assistance from local, state and federal agencies. 

Johnson-Rose added that leaders from Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity spoke to members about potential contracting opportunities the city may have during the Harvey recovery effort.

“They will be very instrumental in future procurement of post disaster work as national funds come in to help rebuild Houston,” Johnson-Rose says.


Potential contracting opportunities for businesses post-Harvey


At Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity, Director Carlecia Wright is informing local minority- and women-owned businesses on how they can potentially win city contracts to help rebuild Houston during the recovery. Her office’s duties include supporting startup Houston-based businesses. It helps local MWBE’s navigate how to land contracts that fall under the purview of Houston’s mayor and provides those firms with access to capital, legal, and other services.

One massive project for businesses may be removing tons of debris from properties destroyed by flooding. Wright’s office has posted procurement opportunities on its website. “Hundreds of businesses have been reaching out because they are interested in picking up debris and helping with the gut work with the rebuilding effort. We’re making sure they know how to connect with those opportunities if they have those skill sets.”

Wright is working with the SBA and several local organizations like the black and Asian chambers to identify resources to support businesses hit hard by storm. Go here for more details.

She plans to inform groups like the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council, the Houston chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors, and the local black chamber of any new city contracting opportunities that arises from the storm.


Grants helping businesses bounce back from storm 


The Texas Black Expo, has presented 12 black-owned small businesses and three other small businesses grants totaling $1,000 apiece to help them recover from Harvey. Some of the firms are using the money for everything from replacing equipment to paying employees.

The Houston-based nonprofit organization, whose efforts include helping businesses in urban areas grow, has raised nearly $20,000 to support businesses impacted by the storm, says Jerome Love, founder and president of Texas Black Expo.

But Love says his group’s goal is to raise $100,000 to offer 100 emergency relief funding grants to small businesses. The nonprofit is working with Rashon McDonald, a two-time Emmy Award-winning producer of The Steve Harvey Show, to raise the funds in the next month. He says donations can be made at

Misfortunes like Harvey can have a devastating impact on businesses and their staff.

“The most efficient use of capital in a disaster situation like this is to invest in small businesses,” Love says. “If the business fails, an entire community suffers including the owner, the employees, and their families.”

The Lewis Group L.L.P., a Houston-based BE 100s company, is helping smaller black-owned businesses recover despite investing a lot of money to overcome challenges the company itself is facing from Harvey.

The Lewis Group owns a combined 48 Shell gas stations and Jack in the Box outlets in the  Houston/Beaumont area. It is No. 33 on the BE Top 100 list with revenues of nearly $104.4 million.


Supporting community that has been there for you


CEO Sherman Lewis III says roughly 14 locations were closed during the storm, but have since re-opened. As of Friday (Sept. 8), five sites were closed and in the process of being reopened. The company also is helping employees recover from flooded homes or flooded out vehicles. The Lewis Group is Houston’s largest black employer with about 1,000 workers.

Still, Lewis says his company is working with the Houston black chamber and the city’s Mayor’s Office and plans to make a “substantial donation” to their fundraising efforts to help black-owned businesses rebound from the storm. “It’s important that we’re supportive of the community because the community has always been supportive of us,” Lewis says.


Hamburger chain to make $1 million donation to American Red Cross


Harvey (Image: Screenshot via Twitter)


The unprecedented hurricane hit the Golden Arches hard. At the height of the storm, McDonald’s had upwards of 315 restaurants closed, of which about 30% were owned by African-American owner/operators as of Sept 6. Since then, restaurants have been opening as quickly as conditions would allow and as of last Wednesday, 14 restaurants were closed, including one owned by an African American owner/operator. McDonald’s has 735 restaurants in the Houston area, says Lorrie Laughlin, brand reputation manager, Houston region, McDonald’s USA.

McDonald Corp. has reported it will donate $1 million to the American Red Cross in support of the relief and recovery efforts for families impacted by Harvey. Plus, the hamburger chain announced a $250,000 employee matching program. And a so called McRig served more than 1,500 meals to evacuees and first responders at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.