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News and advice from our small-business Web siteLoans for the Lowlands

Hurricane Floyd's unruly path up the East Coast put some small businesses underwater, physically as well as financially. Others were left unscathed, but their owners are wondering how they can avoid the same fate. The Small Business Administration may have hit upon a solution. During fiscal year 2000, the agency will offer low-interest pre-disaster loans that will cover up to $50,000 for repairs that mitigate potential flood damage, such as moving electrical facilities out of a flood-prone basement to higher ground.A Gilded Helping Hand

Meet one of the hottest entrepreneurial-minded outfits around: eCompanies, a $130 million venture-capital firm and business incubator begun by EarthLink Network founder Sky D. Dayton and former Walt Disney Web honcho Jake Winebaum. In exchange for at least half of the equity in your company, it lends office space, business contacts, and technology and finance advisers. So, just what is eCompanies looking for? "We're focusing on business-to-business and consumer-oriented e-commerce, definitely not infrastructure," says Winebaum.Who Insures a Good Deal?

Of all life's treacherous tasks, few match the job of selecting a business health plan. That's where Web-based insurance brokers are supposed to help, stepping in to streamline the process by gathering quotes from as many as 12 different insurers at once. Don't believe the hype, warns Dallas L. Salisbury, president of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. "You have no idea what all the technical details of the policy are because they don't put them on the Web site," he cautions.For the full stories, click Online Extras at frontier.businessweek.comEdited by Dennis Berman

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