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Tracy Frank, Published March 16 2010

Businesses ready to pitch in

As hard as it is for businesses to close for any length of time, they say they will to help with the flood fight.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Monday that the city would shut down business activity if necessary to help protect the city against rising floodwaters.

“This is an emergency,” Walaker said. “We will do what we have to do to protect the public.”

Businesses seem willing to oblige. They are also encouraging employees to volunteer in the flood fight – many of them paying for hours employees regularly would have worked. West Acres has every intention of closing if needed, said Rusty Papachek, general manager.

“If the mayor says we need to close, we’re going to follow suit,” he said.

“Whatever Denny wants us to do, we will do,” said Spider Johnk, who owns Fargo marketing company Spider and Co.

Some businesses, like Spider and Co. and Microsoft, can have employees work from home.

“Last year, we had people work from home and we still got a lot of work done,” said Don Morton, Microsoft Fargo site leader. Others can redirect business for a while.

“We have plans in place to temporarily redirect our work to our other locations until we can resume operations in Fargo,” said Danny Miles, human resources director for Ygomi, Oak Brook, Ill.-based parent company to SEI, a global provider of call center services in Fargo.

Businesses like Nodak are preparing for just the opposite. The Fargo appliance, electronics, clothing, and hardware store will stay open 24 hours if needed, said Brian Blixt, sales associate.

“We are here for the public and will go above and beyond to help our customers and the city of Fargo,” he said.

Whether they have to close or not, some small businesses are worried about possible financial losses caused by the flood.

“During the flood, small businesses are hurt by the fact that people change their buying habits,” said Craig Whitney, Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead president and CEO.

It took some businesses a long time to try to recoup sales lost during last year’s flood, Whitney said.

It’s difficult to close for any length of time following January and February, typically the slowest retail months, said Mark Weiler, founder of Fargo Downtowner, a group of businesses working together to promote downtown Fargo.

“We understand the necessity, but it’s also a very difficult time for us to shut our doors,” he said. “We are independent stores, and it’s really essential that we have regular business.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526