The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 2017 Seattle District Small Business Advocate of the Year is Jennifer Warmke, an emergency preparedness coordinator at the City of Bothell.
The SBA Small Business Advocate Award is awarded to those who advocate and promote small business above and beyond the call of their professional duties and responsibilities.
On July 22 of last year, a structure fire broke out in downtown Bothell. The Bothell Mall, a small retail building housing approximately 22 businesses, was destroyed in the fire and several more adjacent businesses were affected by the water damage during the firefighting efforts.
Just two days after the fire response, Warmke was in touch with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene’s office, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, King County, Snohomish County and others to ensure the area was officially declared a disaster so the business owners could qualify for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
“SBA disaster recovery loans are a powerful tool to help small businesses and communities recover in the wake of a disaster,” SBA Seattle District Director Kerrie Hurd said. “Jennifer has gone above and beyond in her role as emergency preparedness coordinator to help these business owners gain access to the SBA disaster recovery loans, and our office is proud to honor her selfless contributions as the SBA Seattle District Small Business Advocate of the year.”
Less than a week after the fire, Warmke organized a block party to support the employees and owners of the affected businesses. This event was a huge success in raising funds to help those affected, and to help the community rally around the people who suffered significant losses.
Warmke was asked to lead the city’s Business Assistance and Recovery Team to assist downtown merchants with the post-fire issues. In this role she personally worked with the businesses to help them complete the physical and economic loss paperwork, which was well beyond the scope of her normal duties.
“It’s quite the honor to be awarded,” Warmke said. “I think it’s important that you go the extra mile and help people, even if it’s just being a shoulder to cry on. I am incredibly proud of the community and how they came together to rally around the businesses affected. It’s what makes Bothell a great place to live in and do business in.”
Throughout this still on-going recovery, Warmke has been an important contact to these small businesses as both a public official and a sympathetic ear and resource. She is currently planning a one-year remembrance memorial.
Subsequently, Warmke was nominated for an SBA Phoenix Award for outstanding contributions to disaster recovery by Bothell Assistant City Manager Peter Troedsson.
“National Small Business Week is a time to recognize the impact small business has on our country,” Hurd said. “It’s a chance to celebrate the dedicated, hard-working small business owners and advocates who are making a difference in our local communities.”
A celebration honoring local SBA winners from Washington and the SBA Seattle District – which serves Washington and northern Idaho – will be held on May 2.