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Creating one-stop shopping for small businesses hurt in Sandy's wake

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    Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno wants businesses to look to her office for help rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which battered the Jersey Shore and struck at the heart of a tourism economy that she said generates about $38 billion in revenue a year.

    Speaking to small businesses last month, Guadagno said, "Those devastated need one-stop shopping, and that's what we have created at the cabinet level." She said about $500 million in emergency grants have been distributed so far. "Call me. Text me," she said. "It's my job to cut through the red tape."

    Alfred Titone, district director of the Small Business Administration, predicted most of the Shore will be open for business this summer. The SBA doesn't give out grants to businesses, but he said the agency's 4 percent loans are valuable "because you can stretch them over a long period of time."

    In the days after Sandy, Verizon Wireless got businesses reconnected to phones and the web with cellular wireless routers, which run on electricity from batteries and generators. Spokeswoman Esmeralda Diaz Cameron said the technology enabled businesses to restore critical functions, like credit card authorizations and placing orders with vendors. Several bank branches at the shore, left powerless by Sandy, are still using these routers to provide banking services in heated tents, she said.

    Businesses seeking money and advice to get back on their feet have a variety of resources to tap:

    FEMA: The deadline to register for FEMA disaster assistance, which may cover damages not covered by insurance, has been extended to Jan. 30. Register online, or get the locations of FEMA disaster recovery centers, at www.disasterassistance.gov or (800) 621-3362.

    SBA disaster loans: The SBA has extended until Jan. 30 the deadline to apply for Sandy disaster loans, which have interest rates as low as 4 percent and terms up to 30 years. So far, more than $100 million in disaster loans have been approved for New Jersey. Information is available at (800) 659-2955, or by e-mail at disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

    Call your bank: Numerous New Jersey banks have created special loan programs to help businesses get back on their feet.

    New Jersey Business Action Center: A one-stop shop in Trenton for Sandy business recovery assistance. Call (866) 534-7789 or visit www.state.nj.us/njbusiness.

    New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program: NJMEP has reached out to nearly 7,000 manufacturing firms to create a database of resources to pair companies with surplus capacity — such as welding, machining and metal forming — with Sandy-slammed companies that need these resources. For details, visit NJMEP.org, or call (973) 998-9801 or (201) 506-0642.

    E-mail to: beth@njbiz.com

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    Beth Fitzgerald

    Beth Fitzgerald

    Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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