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U.S., Japan Researchers Analyze Small Business Disaster Resilience

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Hurricane Ian in 2022 caused at least 156 fatalities and $112.9 billion in damages in the U.S., including this industrial building that was destroyed in Florida. (Story image used under license from bilanol, stock.adobe.com.)

By Joan Slattery Wall

Glenn College Associate Professor Noah Dormady joins a research team studying resilience for minority- and women-owned small and mid-sized businesses in the U.S. and Japan.

The binational team, supported by about $1 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and Japanese Science and Technology Agency, brings together leading experts in hazard resilience and economics to gather and analyze novel data to improve understanding of how these essential businesses rebound and recover from catastrophic events.

Associate Professor Noah Dormady

“As someone who studies natural hazards and natural hazard economics, and as the associate editor of the Natural Hazards Review, I am intrigued by Japan as its people have many frequent natural hazard events such as earthquakes and tsunamis and yet bounce back with a resilience that is worthy of study,” Dormady said.

Results of the research are expected to improve equity and resilience capacity-building in regard to the disproportionate consequences of natural disasters on small and mid-sized businesses. 

“Through our similar work studying business resilience outcomes from Hurricane Harvey and Superstorm Sandy, we found that there was broad heterogeneity in business impacts,” Dormady said. 

“Some businesses were hit harder than others, and some of those hit hard rebounded effectively, while others did not,” he said. “I am looking forward to digging deeper to evaluate which types of businesses are hit most hard and which types of businesses have the most cost-effective resilience outcomes.”

Averting Losses When Disaster Strikes

Associate Professor Noah Dormady’s research has provided empirical assessment of economic resilience metrics that businesses can use to prioritize resilience expenditures to maintain continuity and stability.

The team’s prior work, funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, led to the development of capabilities for quantifying business resilience to disruptions brought about by disasters. The new funding will enable the team to further evaluate resilience cost and effectiveness, develop greater predictive capabilities and focus more on efficient recovery. The team aims to be able to develop even more enhanced analytics that will help all businesses, including small and mid-sized businesses, more cost-effectively cope with and rebound from disasters. 

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 33.2 million small businesses represent over 99% of firms in total and provide employment for nearly half of the national workforce. When disasters strike, these businesses provide essential and community support services, economic vitality and employment stability for populations and communities when it is needed most.

“Considerable volumes of research are devoted to studying community resilience, and we understand how vital small and mid-sized businesses are to community resilience, yet only a tiny fraction of the overall research effort is devoted to understanding the factors that drive resilience in these essential businesses,” said research team leader Alfredo Roa-Henriquez, a Glenn College doctoral graduate formerly advised by Dormady who is now an assistant professor of supply chain management and Challey Institute Scholar at North Dakota State University.

“Even less is known about disaster recovery for minority- and women-owned and operated businesses, which can be slower to recover or more likely to permanently close because of unique barriers they face such as limited access to capital, challenging labor disruptions and business development issues,” Roa-Henriquez added.

The U.S. researchers on the project will survey these businesses affected by Hurricane Ian in Florida in 2022 and analyze data to better understand how they cope and recover from catastrophic events. 

This research focuses on dynamic resilience — how businesses hasten their recovery and get back to operations as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Noah Dormady
Glenn College Associate Professor

“For businesses, dynamic resilience is about optimal timing of investments in repair and reconstruction,” Dormady said. 

In addition to Dormady and Roa-Henriquez, other experts on the team are Adam Rose, a professor at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California who was Dormady’s doctoral advisor, and Maria Watson, an Ohio State graduate in urban planning who is an assistant professor at the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida. 

The great advantage of the international collaboration will be the construction of a common U.S.-Japan business resilience analysis framework and the test of its effectiveness in different cultural contexts. Both the Japanese and U.S.-based teams have published extensively on quantifying resilience and developing resilience metrics.

The team’s Japanese partners come from Kyoto University’s Disaster Prevention Research Institute and Kagawa University. They will collaborate with the U.S. team on research design and will conduct nearly identical observational data collection efforts in Japan. There, they will focus on impacts to small and mid-sized businesses from changes in labor shortages and immigrant workers, specifically the degree to which labor shortages, working environment and dependency on migrant workers impact business recovery from disasters. They also aim to analyze businesses that employ foreign guest workers through the country’s Technical Intern Training Program to evaluate the percentage of employees from this demographic and the meaningfulness of guest worker inclusion and equity. 

Over the two-year project, the U.S. research team will distribute its findings locally and nationally through the National Women’s Business Development Council, the National Center for the Middle Market at Ohio State and other federal, state and local agencies and policymakers such as the Small Business Administration, the Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.