As Bridge City dries out in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike the business community has began the process of re-establishing itself also.  Spray painted on plywood “now open” signs line the main streets of local commerce. But other businesses aren’t coming back at all and some remain undecided.

Janelle Sehon, executive vice-president of the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce estimates that 85-percent  of the local business community will overcome losses and rebound. New businesses, however, are poised to open. The Walgreens store on Texas Avenue will open in November according to spokesperson Jessica Vergara.

Sehon is optimistic about the future of the business community. She also sites several options available to business owners affected by Hurricane Ike. “There is assistance for local business owners through FEMA. They must fill out an SBA Loan application to proceed to receive any available grants. This is the first step to recovery help.”

According to Sehon, the Bridge City Chamber is networking with the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce and the Orange County Economic Development Corporation to provide services and assistance. A station for business owners is set up at Northway Shopping Center in Orange. Sehon is gathering any new information to provide Bridge City business owners.

Just a few days after the storm the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce was back in operation and then temporarily closed. It was re-opened again and became a point of contact for relief efforts.

Located in downtown Bridge City the old Prairie View teacherage building sits on piers and escaped the flood. But it didn’t escape the financial impact of Hurricane Ike.

“Almost all of our chamber membership was affected by Hurricane Ike in one way or another,” Sehon said. “We’ve had to cancel some fall events and could effect our annual Holiday Parade.” Sehon maintained the chamber without pay in exchange for room and board for herself, husband George, and two children. The Sehon’s home, like nearly 3,500 of the homes in Bridge City, was flooded in the storm. 

The Bridge City Chamber operates mainly on  membership dues and fund raisers. After the storm the organization’s immediate future was precarious at best. But that changed when James Beck of Bridge City, an operation manager for Chevron, was able to swing a $5,000 donation from corporate headquarters.

The Beaumont Chamber of Commerce also responded with a $2,500 gift. “Thankfully the gifts will get us by for now as things improve,” Sehon said. 

“We have all kinds of companies setting up here to do home repairs. They could help by joining the Chamber while they are doing business in our town,” Sehon says.

According to Sehon the Chamber gets over 100 calls a day from citizens inquiring about reputable contractors and repairmen. “I only refer those that are Bridge City Chamber of Commerce members. I don’t know anything about the others,” she said.

The Bridge City Chamber of Commerce is located at 150 W. Roundbunch. Individual memberships are available. You can contact Sehon by calling 735-5671.

According to Sehon, SBA assistance is also available at Lamar-Port Arthur at 1401 Proctor Street. The phone number is 984.6531.