Press Release

Release Date: July 09, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

SULPHUR, Okla. – Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, along with tribal leadership and state and local officials, met with U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman June 4 to discuss rebuilding the community after an EF-4 tornado slammed into the downtown area April 27, leveling multiple businesses and homes.

“We thank Administrator Guzman for facilitating this dialogue and sharing of resources to benefit those we serve,” said Governor Anoatubby. “In support of the many vital entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the Chickasaw Nation, we will continue to strategically invest and offer programs and services to help the entrepreneurial spirit thrive and enjoy long-term success. We look forward to working with the SBA in these efforts.”

Governor Anoatubby said the Chickasaw Nation is working with the SBA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as local organizations, and is ready to fill in the gaps to support Sulphur.

“We are part of this community. We love this place, and we are going to do whatever we can to help. We are ready to do that,” Governor Anoatubby said. “We have businesses here and it is in our heart, so we are going to work to help.”

The Chickasaw Nation operates several businesses and programs in Sulphur, such as the Chickasaw Cultural Center, Chickasaw Nation Head Start, Chickasaw Visitor Center, a youth center and senior center, and the tribe employs more than 400 people in the community.

A handful of Chickasaw Nation facilities in downtown Sulphur were damaged during the tornado, including the Artesian Hotel, ARTesian Gallery, Mahota Textiles and an administrative office, the latter two being destroyed.

Mahota Textiles has since moved its operation to 2122 W. Broadway in Sulphur.

Community wide, about 68 businesses and more than 140 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Governor Anoatubby said cooperation and collaboration are the keys to the recovery and rebuilding process for the entire community.

“Our teams have worked actively to collaborate with partners, locally and nationally, and with the emergency management agencies to find necessary resources for our citizens,” he said.

Immediately following the April 27 storms, Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police responded, and tribal emergency management deployed its Incident Command Center.

The fully staffed and self-contained mobile medical unit, Inchokma (feel well, be well), was on-site several days and open to the community to assist with nonemergency injuries.

Administrator Guzman said small businesses are the backbone of the community and the SBA has pledged to play a role in rebuilding Sulphur. The SBA can loan businesses as much as $2 million, $500,000 for homeowners and up to $100,000 for renters.

“SBA is about the American dream of business ownership, but that business ownership is integral to community and when the communities are impacted by disaster, SBA steps in to not only help the small businesses but nonprofits and homeowners,” she said.

Physical disaster loans were made available through July 1.

“The economic injury is going to be longer term. We know that people are still assessing their losses and will continually work with businesses on those economic injury loans through end of January of 2025,” Guzman said.

Guzman said she wanted to visit Sulphur to get a better understanding of the tornado’s impact and identify what the community needs.

In addition to low interest loans, the SBA has established a center for existing and new businesses.

“Here in Sulphur, we have a small business development center that’s actually supported by Chickasaw Nation,” Guzman said. “And that center has advisers who are able to help walk those new entrepreneurs through their business plans and help them strategize for the future.”

At the time of her visit, about three dozen loans had been issued. The average turnaround time has been seven to 10 days, said Guzman.

About the U.S. Small Business Administration
Under U.S. SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman’s leadership, the SBA manages a $500 billion portfolio and deploys $50 billion in funding annually to America’s small business owners. As administrator, she spearheaded key agency initiatives to deliver essential pandemic assistance to the most vulnerable small businesses and underserved communities. She has also implemented effective strategies that help small businesses and innovative startups gain unprecedented access to capital, contracting, professional networks, technical training, digital tools and disaster support. As a result, more than ever before, millions of America’s entrepreneurs have the resources they need to start, grow and build resilient businesses.