The Road to Recovery: Area Leaders Discuss Response to Memorial Day Tornadoes

20 Oct 2020

by Gwen Eberly


The road to recovery following the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes required the coming together of Dayton Area businesses and organizations to restore our community and prepare for future economic growth and success. More than one year later, we are witnessing how these collaborative efforts are impacting the future business climate in Montgomery County. 

Recently, local leaders gathered for the I-70/75 Dayton Region Disaster Recovery Panel Discussion to share success stories and how they served as a partner for impacted individuals and businesses. I joined the conversation to share my perspective through an economic development and business retention lens. 

Below is a brief summary of how Montgomery County Economic Development and partnering organization BusinessFirst! responded to the devastation in the days, weeks and months following May 27, 2019. 

Evaluating the Damage

After the tornadoes hit, our primary focus was to provide resources for those impacted in the community. This began by conducting infrastructure inspections with building officials, during which nearly 3,200 properties were reviewed. Data from these inspections was shared with Emergency Services to demonstrate impacts in hopes of securing FEMA assistance. 

Playing an active, service-minded role in our community was another portion of our department’s response. Members of our team volunteered at water and supply distribution stations as a way to keep moving forward in the face of adversity. 

Lending a Helping Hand

Once FEMA assistance became available, we actively began searching for open office sites that would allow the Small Business Administration the opportunity to efficiently and effectively serve our community. With their support, BusinessFirst! was also able to step in. 

With roads cleared and electricity restored, we began analyzing the primary needs of our business community. We utilized our website services to create a landing page that shared numerous resources available to both business owners and residents in Montgomery County. For business owners, these resources included information on permitting and available loans Updates were ongoing and incorporated as new resources became available. 

The most impactful moment in our disaster recovery took place in Trotwood, Vandalia and Harrison Township as a collection of 114 community partners and members of our team conducted recovery walks. Through four separate events, we went door-to-door to share resources and speak with business owners about their immediate needs. In total, we spoke with 418 businesses — a financial impact of $8.7M. 

Partners Now and in the Future

We’ve always believed in collaboration among our partners and business community — and this was only heightened in response to the events on May 27, 2019. To provide solace to Montgomery County businesses, the county responded by: 

  • Our Building Department waived fees for damaged properties for one year.

  • The Auditor’s Office provided reassessment opportunities to help impacted businesses manage expenses.

  • The CDBG program provided funds to allow jurisdictions to demolish abandoned properties.

  • We’ve continued to compile resources from our involvement with the Long Term Recovery group to get our community back on track. 

 Lasting Impacts & Next Steps

At the very beginning, the largest repercussions from these tornadoes included loss of employees for businesses both large and small as many were unable to work or their company’s site was impacted. However, revitalization is taking place within the Dayton Region — ribbon cuttings and reopenings are frequent and area businesses are showcasing their resiliency. 

Moving forward, we all have a part to play in preparing our community for future disasters — whether these events occur today, in the age of COVID-19, or in 100 years. The most important piece of the puzzle in terms of disaster preparedness remains grounded in collaboration. Our businesses, resource partners and community must work together as we continue to restore, rebuild and advance the Dayton Region.