For Black Business Owners of Houston, Harvey Brings Bad Katrina Flashbacks
By Ryan Velez
The nation has been watching in horror as the Houston area and other parts of southeast Texas are in the midst of flooding and massive damage brought on by Hurricane Harvey. Black Enterprise has approached this disaster from a different angle: a financial one. Houston has recently become a bastion of Black business, just last year paying host to its annual Entrepreneur summit. Even the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, acknowledged the fertile grounds of the “next black business Mecca,” citing “our thriving black business community, the multitude of professionals in corporate positions, and the dozen ELC (Executive Leadership Council) members who have presence in Houston.”
Now, it looks like much of these strides may be undone by an act of nature. Can Black businesses in Houston climb back? Black Enterprise discusses the question.
Hurricanes don’t discriminate, as can be seen by the images on our televisions of people of all ethnicities both suffering and coming out to help in this time of need. While the winds and floods play no favorites, in the fallout, not all suffer equally. The Atlantic reports, “Like in the case of previous disasters like Katrina and Sandy, the heaviest cost of Harvey’s destruction is likely going to be borne by the most vulnerable communities in its path.” The article mentions that many poorer communities did not have the means to voluntarily evacuate as their richer counterparts did.
Those who followed Hurricane Katrina and its fallout may remember this well, as over 60,000 Black-owned businesses were affected, many never to recover. In Louisiana alone, Katrina impacted 20,000 Black-owned businesses that generated over $800 million. In regards to Houston, there is much concern in terms of government response, as while Katrina earned much criticism towards FEMA, the agency is now currently without a chief, leaving things potentially more splintered than before.
The longer recovery takes, the greater the potential for loss of life and property, directly affecting the potential of businesses to start back up again. In perhaps the cruelest irony one could think of, some of those in the Houston area moved their businesses from Katrina-affected areas. Many other Texan cities are home to people resettling from Katrina. In fact, a quarter of a million fled New Orleans to resettle in Houston in the aftermath of Katrina, reports CNN. New Orleans was able to rise again after Katrina, but the deck now seems stacked against Houston and its black businesses more than ever.