Online Extra: Voices from Ground Zero
If adjusting to the economic realities of post-September 11 America has been difficult for small-businesses nationwide, nowhere has it been harder than in New York City itself. The downtown neighborhood surrounding the World Trade Center site is home to an estimated 25,000 small companies -- more than in all of Des Moines, Iowa, or Toledo, Ohio. Here's what a cross-section of downtown Manhattan entrepreneurs had to say about the day the twin towers came down -- and the challenges they've been facing ever since.
CEO, Wall St. Access, an online brokerage with 100 employees, located three blocks south of the trade center site
"In 1970, the office I worked in caught fire. I was lucky to escape, and our company was down for a couple of days. It occurred to me that I would not be caught short again. So, [on September 11], we had a disaster-recovery plan in place. We did dry runs every four or five months. We congregated in the park downstairs, and then key employees got on a ferry to New Jersey, where we have a disaster-recovery site, and where we had arranged to rent equipment and space in the event of an emergency. We were functioning the next day. It paid off."
Co-owner Capsouto Freres, a restaurant with 25 employees in TriBeCa, a neighborhood just north of the World Trade Center
"We became a relief center. For 10 days, we served lunch and dinner -- for free -- to rescue workers, police officers, people in the neighborhood. Now, we've reopened, and a lot of our loyal customers have come to support us. But sales are still off 75%. Every business is hemorrhaging. And we're never going to get back to Sept. 10. To me, it's like swimming in a riptide. You can't fight it. You have to go with the flow until you get out. You might be a mile down the beach, but at least you'll be alive."
President and CEO, UGO Networks Inc., an online entertainment network based in SoHo, a lower Manhattan neighborhood
"The advertising economy has been hit very hard by the events of September 11. We just reduced our headcount from 77 to 37, which is about what we had when the company was founded four years ago. We're now trying to sublet three-quarters of our space. Fortunately, we got a $25 million round of venture capital seven months ago, so we have cash. And our infrastructure costs are lower than ever, so it appears that we'll be here through this hailstorm. But looking around, the failure rate for Internet companies is going to accelerate. There are going to be very few survivors."
Partner at Contextweb, a three-person technology consulting company
"In August, we decided to move downtown, to 1 Liberty Plaza (adjacent to the WTC). It was a good deal, and it seemed like the address would add an air of legitimacy to our company. Since the attack, we've been in three temporary spaces. It's difficult, but we're keeping our head down and focusing on the work. We got an SBA loan (for $56,000) to bridge the gap between receivables. I figure we lost about a month of work."
By Larry Kanter in New York
Edited by Fred Strasser