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World’s First Climate-Smart Zone? Disaster Leads to Innovation

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Hurricane Maria and Jose Menace the Caribbean and North Atlantic. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Disaster May Lead to Innovation in the Caribbean

Clean-up crews will ship more than 580,000 cubic yards of debris off the U.S. Virgin Islands this fall.

That’s enough scattered pieces of waste and rubbish in the wake of two 2017 hurricanes that hit the islands to fill 175 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The mountain of debris reflects just how far the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean nations must climb as they continue to bounce back from the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Fallen trees, downed power lines and flooded streets dotted miles of landscape after the Category 5 storms blew through within a two-week period. The hurricane double-dose overturned cars, sprinkled rubbish over the land like confetti and collapsed tin roofs like an accordion.

The two hurricanes took lives, destroyed infrastructure, demolished housing and public facilities and gutted the tourist-based economies in many of the island nations. A year later finds blue tarps still resting in place of roofs.

As the clean-up efforts continue, the USVI, Puerto Rico and other island nations face a complex question: How do they merge recovery with resilience? A group is pushing to rebuild infrastructure, so it not only brings back a sense of normalcy, but leaves the islands better prepared to handle the next major storm.

Federal funding programs are in place to boost recovery, but the requirements of each program leave challenges in terms of addressing the planet’s changing dynamics. The USVI, Puerto Rico and the other nations will have to overcome obstacles to use the funds to deal with climate change and strengthen its resistance to catastrophic storms.

But a movement is in place to bring about those improvements.

Changing With The Climate

Shortly after the hurricanes, the international community committed to making the Caribbean the world’s first climate-smart zone. In the last year, 26 countries and 40 private and public sector partners move towards the goal by creating a coalition to participate in the Caribbean Climate-Smart.

As defined by the World Bank, climate-smart zones reduce vulnerability to a range of climate-related hazards and natural disaster risks by targeting a number of improvements:

Building resilient infrastructure

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and other pollutants

Emphasize healthy ecosystems on the sea to support the blue economy

Promote healthy ecosystems on land for food security

Enhance energy security via promotion of energy efficiency, renewable energy and use of low carbon sources

Incorporate one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals in all major projects sponsored by participating governments.

The Inter-American Development Bank has committed a billion dollars towards the accelerator’s goal of promoting a climate smart zone.

Even though the U.S. Virgin Islands joined the coalition, the projects approved and funded thus far focus more on speeding recovery than meeting climate smart goals. The USVI expects to utilize $1.86 billion dollars of Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and $2.47 billion dollars from Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund recovery efforts.  Approximately a quarter of the HUD funds will be used for replacement of housing.  The bulk of the other funds are directed to roadway and utility repair.

The focus of the recovery projects in the USVI is consistent with federal policy. In the U.S., recovery resources are deployed under the auspices of FEMA in coordination with other federal agencies including HUD, the Small Business Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The government rewards communities which have engaged in pre-disaster planning, but only encourages mitigation and adaptation as part of post-disaster recovery projects in limited circumstances.

Navigating the Regulations of Recovery Funds

There are several sources of disaster recovery funds after a presidential declaration of disaster occurs.  The Stafford Act supports disaster recovery through three programs:

The Individual Assistance (IA) Program provides funds to homeowners shortly after a disaster to make temporary repairs to their homes. The funds, administered through FEMA, are designed to allow individuals to make their homes safe for habitation.

The Public Assistance (PA) Program reimburses communities for repair costs related to public infrastructure and for costs of debris management and removal, but limits coverage to damage caused by the storm, not deferred maintenance. A sub-program known as the “406” can lend assistance, but it requires case-by-case assessments and cost-benefit analysis that can lead to delays.

The third program is the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) which is a grant-based program designed to fund future storm mitigation efforts.  However, the government links eligibility to disaster declarations, so even after it issues a grant award, receipt of these funds is often delayed. Historically, the process has been so cumbersome and uncertain that many homeowners choose not to participate.

A second piece of federal legislation is the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.  This act adds to and consolidates earlier programs for Flood Mitigation Assistance and the Severe Repetitive Loss Program and adds a pre-disaster mitigation program to fund proactive risk reduction in advance of a storm.  The program is competitive, and funding is limited, so not all communities are awarded funds.

After any disaster, there are also supplemental appropriations by Congress to fund the various agencies disaster relief efforts that are not covered under the Stafford Act.  This highly political process involves lobbying by disaster-stricken communities and states, and in cases of multiple disasters in multiple jurisdictions, sometimes leads to competition for funds.  Supplemental funds are awarded with general rules as to their use. A designated agency must administer the funds.

These funds are directed toward perceived needs based on the impacts of disaster and can include costs of infrastructure repair and replacement, housing, social services, economic recovery and agriculture. Lead agencies can include HUD, FEMA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, or any other agency with responsibility under the National Response Framework and the National Disaster Response Framework.

Prioritizing Resistance Within the Federal Framework

Federal agency disaster recovery efforts occur based on two interrelated frameworks.  The National Response Framework is designed to address immediate disaster response to protect health, welfare and safety of disaster-stricken communities. The framework document can be retrieved at https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1914-25045-1246/final_national_response_framework_20130501.pdf.

The National Disaster Response Framework (NDRF) is implemented following catastrophic disasters to coordinate long-term recovery efforts. The framework document (second edition) is accessible at: https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1466014998123-4bec8550930f774269e0c5968b120ba2/National_Disaster_Recovery_Framework2nd.pdf.

It is through the latter framework that communities can begin to implement mitigation and adaptation efforts as part of disaster recovery.  The NDRF appoints lead and supporting agencies based on these subject areas: Community Planning and Capacity Building, Economic, Health and Social Services, Infrastructure Systems, and Natural and Cultural Resources.

The government tasks each lead agency with subject matter responsibility with developing pre-disaster programs designed to build relationships between state and local community disaster coordinators. Immediately after a disaster, these same agencies, under direction of FEMA, carry out immediate disaster recovery roles, and then, when the community is secure, transition to the longer-term programs for recovery planning.

In all cases, the work on disaster recovery is supposed to involve the local community as well as state and territorial governments.  The federal framework envisions federal agencies as facilitators and technical assistance.

The timeline for agency action under the NDRF stretches over multiple years.  However, the funding for these activities comes only from supplemental appropriations and annual agency appropriations in the federal budget.  Thus, the effectiveness of the federal government in providing services related to mitigation and adaptation can be constrained by limited resources.

Directing Funds to Resilience

Within this regulatory framework, the USVI Hurricane Recovery and Resilience Task Force was established in October 2017 to guide expenditures of recovery funding. Appointed members included federal agency representatives, local government and business leaders, private donors, including Bloomberg L.P. and the Kenny Chesney Foundation, and the owner of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Federal agencies provided technical assistance and coordination. The task force, charged with prioritizing longer-term recovery projects and needs, released its final report on September 6, 2018, (available at https://www.usvihurricanetaskforce.org.)

In total, the report includes 228 recommendations, addressing climate analysis, energy, communications, transportation, water, solid waste and wastewater, housing and building, health, vulnerable populations, education, economy, nonprofits and government response to disaster. Recommendations include:

  • Strengthen telecom towers and bury the aerial portions of the internet fiber that serves the territory.
  • Rebuild seaports, expand container ports and add another customs office.
  • Strengthen and modernize airport terminals.
  • Harden and rehabilitate existing water distribution systems, including replacing old pipes.
  • Rebuild schools and hospitals to withstand future storms.
  • Develop a housing retrofit program for houses built before 1996.
  • Diversify the energy system and develop microgrids for critical facilities.
  • Develop cloud based back up of government records.
  • Switch to buried cables for all government offices.
  • Replace streetlights with roundabouts.
  • Conduct a territory wide drainage study.
  • Add redundancy to the wastewater system.
  • Close the landfills.
  • Mandate a recycling program.
  • Expand public water systems.
  • Reform energy power purchase process.
  • Update building codes.
  • Install back-up generators at critical facilities.
  • Create an emergency operations center.

Many of these recommendations would further climate-smart initiatives.  However, implementing the recommendations will require pairing local funding with federal disaster relief.  The limitations on federal funding, as described above, will pose a challenge.  For instance, rehabilitation of existing water distribution systems and closing the landfill, which has operated under EPA consent order for many years, may not qualify for federal disaster relief funds as both projects relate to pre-existing infrastructure deficiencies.

At the same time, because the USVI economy continues to struggle with approximately 50 percent of hotels inoperable due to storm damage, and job loss at 7.8 percent since the hurricanes, local funding is also limited.

Summary: Post-Storm Resilience Efforts Remain Cloudy

The combination of federal regulations and limited local funding make it unclear how much progress will be made in the USVI towards the creation of a climate-smart zone. It also remains to be seen how successful other Caribbean islands will be in reaching that goal, as the resources available to many countries are much more limited than those available in the U.S. territories.

Hopefully, the Climate-Smart Accelerator will provide the vehicle to rebuild a resilient Caribbean, and the international community and the private sector will step in to fill the gaps in government recovery programs.

 

Rising Tide Wins Community Impact Award

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CREW Tampa Bay (Commercial Real Estate Women Tampa Bay), a premier community organization supporting women in the primarily male dominated commercial real estate industry awarded Rising Tide Innovation Center their coveted Community Impact Award at their annual Excellence Awards gala. The Community Impact Award is bestowed upon an individual or organization who promotes economic development or fosters the overall social and economic interest of our community and quality of life.

Leigh Fletcher, co-founder of Rising Tide Innovation Center, says, “We were honored that the work we’re doing for the entrepreneurial community is being recognized for its impact. We look forward continuing to grow and help the Tampa Bay Community further.”

Business Plan for Start-Ups

One-Page Business Plan to Jump-Start Your Start-Up

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Business Plan for Start-UpsBusiness plans come in all shapes and sizes, depending on their purpose. Lenders typically require much more formal and detailed business plans, complete with financial projections, tax returns, and other financial records and disclosures attached. The Small Business Administration (SBA), in particular, since it guarantees government-backed loans, expects to see a voluminous and detailed business plan and presentation. Just when you think you have it nailed, they are likely to ask for some more documents.

Venture capitalists and investors will eventually want to see all the details of your plan, but initially, they are going to want to see a presentation that captures their imagination. Some just want you to get right to the numbers—or at least that’s what they say. Read “Pitch Anything,” by Oren Klaff, though, before you buy that line.

Marketers and agencies who’ll be running your campaigns, on the other hand, will want to know all about your ideal clients/target audience, unique sales proposition, competitors and the like, but won’t care at all about your personal tax returns from 2008.

So, if you are getting ready to start a business, do you need a business plan? And if you do, what type of business plan, exactly do you need?

The answer to the first question is: Yes, you need a plan.

Think of it this way. If we were to start out on a road trip, let’s say from St. Petersburg to Las Vegas, and we just hopped in the car and began driving without a map or a GPS or any directions at all, we might eventually wind up in Vegas. Or not. Of course, if we did make it, it would take you a whole lot longer, and we likely would wind up going down many, many wrong paths and getting lost before we got there.

But, if we put the address to our destination in the GPS and let it map out the exact route, well, we still might take a wrong turn here or there, but we’d likely course-correct pretty quickly and get back on the right road faster. In no time (35 hours, exactly, if we didn’t stop), we’d end up in in Vegas, partying our asses off at The Bellagio.

It’s the same with a business plan. We could build a business without a plan, but with a plan makes a whole lot more sense.

The next step, then, is to decide what kind of plan you need. If you are seeking funding, then you need to find out from the potential source of your funding what they would expect to see in a plan because, as stated earlier, lenders and investors can be picky.

If, however, you just need a plan for YOU, and you really aren’t that great at planning or excited about it, then try this simple, one-page business plan to help you get started.

Set aside a morning, with a fresh cup of coffee and no distractions, to work on your simple plan. The purpose of this plan is to help you get your business idea down on paper and out of your head so you can start assessing its viability.

This is not a be-all-end-all plan, it’s a starting point. Over time, you may want to elaborate on this plan. When you are ready, you can check of resources like SCORE, a service of the SBA designed to help small business owners with issues like preparing business plans, or you can buy a few books (there are many on Amazon), or simply Google “business plans for small businesses,” and you’ll find lots of options.

Ready to get started? Click here for your plan.

What is your why?

Why Knowing Your ‘Why’ is so Important for Your Business

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What is your why?The wafting aroma is the first to invade your senses.

Your fingers warm to the touch, twitching in anticipation. You raise the cup, eager to ignite your taste buds and spark your adrenaline. You don’t just want it, you crave it.

Coffee.

Every morning, millions start the day with all the prerequisites: shower, dress, drive. The day doesn’t really start, however, until that first sip of coffee. According to the National Coffee Association, the number of Americans who drink coffee on a daily basis rose to 62 percent in 2017. On average, coffee drinkers spend about $1,000 a year on coffee at $3 a pop.

We love our magic coffee beans, partially because they taste like manna from heaven, but mainly because coffee revs us up like hi-test gasoline.

The truth is, however, as an entrepreneur, it is not caffeine that really gets you going in the morning. The true source of any entrepreneur’s motivation is an internal spark that drives you toward success. You need a different kind of brew coursing through your veins—no less desirable, no less delicious—but more plentiful and abundant.

It’s your “why,” an internal java you can use to tap into during moments of challenge, to help push beyond your comfort zone and, ultimately, to achieve your goals.

Your “why” is the reason you started this business in the first place, and it goes far beyond the bottom-line. It is about what’s at the heart of your entrepreneurial actions. While your “why” may explain your desire for those tangibles, it’s about more than a single word, like money or fame or success.

As Simon Sinek says in his book Find Your Why, “Money is a result … the question we ask is, what is the reason (people) want the money. Is it for freedom? To travel? To provide a lifestyle for their kids that they didn’t have? The point is, money isn’t the thing that drives people. WHY goes much deeper to understanding what motivates and inspires us.”

Understand, however, your why, your internal cup of coffee, must be a special blend. It’s not some manufactured instant brand you’re dumping out of a tin can and into a coffee maker. It’s a matter of marrying five special tenets together to create the perfect entrepreneurial pot of everyday inspiration.

 

  • Vision.

    Every entrepreneur needs to envision what they hope to achieve. It’s good to have always dreamed of owning your own business. Now that you’ve embarked on the journey, what’s the destination? What are you striving to achieve? The more clarity you can include in the answer, the more you can heighten the possibilities. To be successful is too vague. You need specific benchmarks, perhaps noting how much you want to make in Year 1, Year 3 and Year 5. Or how many clients you want to attain in those some periods. Why does vision need to be in the blend? Because reaching those milestones will keep you going?

  • Values.

    Now that you’ve targeted a destination, what’s the mode of transportation. Hard work, of course, will be at the core, but your internal belief system will dictate how you reach those benchmarks. Will you do so with integrity and care for others, creating a foundation that will boost your future? Will you keep your principles at the forefront of your decision-making, never losing sight of what’s more important? Knowing that you’re guided by key standards will fuel your drive. Why do values need to be in the blend? Because how you succeed is more important than success alone.

  • Talent

    The word immediately conjures visions of inherent, God-given gifts: Michael Jackson moonwalking across the stage. If you’re bringing natural abilities to the entrepreneurial effort, great. Talent, however, also can be acquired through training. The biggest key is determining the skills you need to succeed, taking a concise inventory of your strengths and weaknesses and then working to supplement them. Why does talent need to be in the blend? Because there’s always room for improvement.

  • Passion.

    Your vision, your values and your talent all must be rooted in your passion. It’s the most essential ingredient in your special blend of why. Passion will make you sharpen your vision, elevate your values and enhance your talent. That love will make it seem like the blood, sweat and tears you’re putting in every day is worth it. It’ll spur you to complete the mundane tasks and nurture your euphoria when you’re truly doing what you love. Why does passion need to be in the blend? Because Mark Twain said, “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

  • Community.

    No one succeeds on their own. The greatest entrepreneurs had mentors who lent advice, friends who carried them through the struggles and even acquaintances who told them “no” when they needed a dose of reality. No one, especially those just starting their own business, has all the answers. But your “why” is built around a never-ending quest to find those answers. Why does community need to be in the blend? Because asking the right question and asking the right person can be more important than thinking you have the right answer.

At Rising Tide Innovation Center, our “why” centers on our passion for community. We’ve invested in this co-work space not out of necessity, but because building community excites and enriches us. In a word, our “why” is you. We’re passionate about creating a community to support entrepreneurs like you in making your dreams come true so that, together, we can create a positive impact on the world.

It’s why we can’t wait to leap out of bed in the morning. Well, that, and our cappuccino.