The Role of Business Support Organizations in Advancing Equitable Economic Recovery

Sua Kim
University of Utah

Divya Chandrasekhar
University of Utah

Publication Date: 2023


Small businesses suffer both high vulnerability to disasters and slow recovery from them due to a combination of economic, knowledge, and operational capacity. For Historically Underrepresented Group Operator (HUGO) businesses, achieving business resilience is further challenged by issues of historic and concurrent marginalization, resulting in inequities in accessing and receiving disaster aid. Business support organizations (BSOs) play a significant role in promoting equitable small business development through deep engagement with local business communities; however, their role in promoting disaster recovery of HUGO businesses has not been studied adequately. This study aims to promote understanding of how BSOs assist HUGO businesses through the disaster recovery process and provide insights to planners and policymakers on how to build resilience capacity for these essential recovery agents. Data was collected through 21 key informant interviews with executives and representatives of state and regional BSOs operating within governmental, quasigovernmental, and nonprofit sectors in Utah. Interviews focused on their understanding of impact on HUGOs after recent disasters, the services they provided, and the challenges and opportunities of facilitating HUGOs’ recovery. Findings suggest that BSOs provide essential social capital to HUGO businesses through access to recovery resources and social representation, but that they experience challenges in their work due to issues of cultural insensitivity and organizational capacity. Economic recovery planners and policymakers can build BSOs’ capacity to provide services through funding and technical assistance workshops as well as improving cultural competency within their own institutions to enable robust partnerships.


Business support organizations (BSOs)—including non-profit, public, and for-profit sector organizations that support local business development—play a significant role in building and sustaining local economies. These resource organizations act as knowledge gatekeepers building bridges between local businesses and government agencies and peer or social support organizations (Quinn, 20041; Dyba & De Marchi, 20222). Important to this study, BSOs can also provide critical representation to local business interests in non-local forums and promote equitable local economic growth. This function may be of critical importance to minority- and women-owned businesses that face significant challenges in their growth and development process during ‘normal’ times, but especially so in the post-disaster environment (Bates, 20023; U.S. Department of Commerce, 20104; Helgeson et al., 20225).

Historically Underrepresented Group Operators (HUGOs) are businesses owned by individuals of minority race, ethnicity, gender, or veteran status that often face high barriers to entrepreneurship and capital access even before disaster strikes (Helgeson et al., 2022). These issues are further compounded in the post-disaster context by effects of the disaster and barriers to recovery aid access (Rodriguez et al., 20076; Marshall et al., 20157). While the role of BSOs in supporting small businesses in non-disaster times has been studied in the past, there is little research on the extent to which they can support small HUGO businesses in their recovery from disasters (Quinn, 2004; Darden & O’Toole, 20228).

The primary objective of this study is to investigate how BSOs address the needs of HUGO businesses during disaster recovery. The study employs the concept of "social capital," which is defined as resources derived from group-based social relationships, as a framework to understand this role. Specifically, the study focuses on the concept of ‘linking social capital,’ which refers to resources made available through vertical relationships between individual entities (such as HUGO businesses) and formal institutions (such as BSOs). To delve deeper into this subject, the study uses a case study approach focused on HUGO recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in Utah. The State of Utah is experiencing increased diversity in its business sector, but has also faced significant business-sector impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, which presents a unique opportunity to understand the role of BSOs in HUGO recovery (Minority Business Development Agency, 20189; Reed, 202010; Cortez, 202111).

This research contributes knowledge regarding the institutions that facilitate disaster recovery for HUGOs, the roles that BSOs play specifically, and the complexities faced by BSOs in their own work. The findings of this study can inform policymakers and planners on how best to support BSOs in their recovery support functions, but also help BSOs themselves to better coordinate their efforts and resources to bolster HUGO businesses’ resilience.

Literature Review

Disaster Experiences of Historically Underrepresented Group Operator Businesses

HUGOs play a significant role in local economies through their contributions to local revenue and job creation. According to a 2021 report by the Minority Business Development Agency, minority-owned businesses—defined as businesses owned by racial minority individuals—contributed 8.9 million jobs and 2.5% of the United States gross domestic product in 2020, a figure that is expected to grow to 7.4% by 2060 (US Department of Commerce, 202112). HUGOs also form a significant proportion of the small business sector. In 2023, women-owned businesses comprised 21.7% of all employer firms in the United States and 42.6% of non-employer firms, i.e., firms with no paid employees. Minority-owned businesses comprised 19.6% and 33.6% of the same, respectively (Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, 202313). This implies that disaster impacts to, and recovery of, small businesses in the United States carries serious implications for the durability and resilience of HUGOs as well.

Unfortunately, research indicates that HUGOs are disproportionately harmed by disasters due to pre-existing structural challenges that contribute to their overall poor financial health, lower access to financial capital, and smaller customer base (Bates, 2002; Blanchflower, 200814; Dua et al., 202015; Bates et al., 202216). HUGOs also face multiple barriers such as language proficiency and lack of access to financial resources, which impede their post-disaster recovery (Link & Morrison, 201917; Dua et al., 2020; Helgeson et al., 2022; Hiti et al., 202218; Chang et al., 202219).

Despite this, mounting evidence demonstrates that HUGO businesses benefit from the intergenerational transfer of business knowledge and strong social networking in the recovery phase (Kristiansen, 200420; Robb & Fairlie, 200921). These nascent discoveries emphasize the importance of delving deeper into the mechanisms through which social networks contribute to HUGO recovery. Further exploration is needed to comprehend the specific constituent organizations within these business networks and their capabilities in furnishing the tailored assistance that HUGOs require.

Importance of Social Capital to Historically Underrepresented Group Operator Recovery and the Role of Business Support Organizations

Businesses operate in an ecosystem of institutions that includes business partners, suppliers, distributors, governments, nonprofits, and households as labor markets and customers (Moon, 200122). The interdependencies implied in this ecosystem highlight the importance of social networks to business recovery after disasters, as social networks help businesses access essential resources and information to aid in their recovery (Xiao et al., 201823). Social capital, or resources accrued through social networks, manifests in three ways: (1) bonding capital, or strong ties within a close-knit group; (2) bridging capital, or connections between diverse groups; and (3) linking capital, or connections with formal institutions (Aldrich & Meyer, 201524). Research shows that social capital plays an important role in small and minority-owned business recovery, although it is less specific about which types of social capital are more or less important (Torres et al., 201925; Xiao et al., 2018; Marshall & Schrank, 201426). Ongoing research by the authors of this study indicates that HUGOs that receive financial assistance specifically from governmental or community-based organizations—sources of linking capital—are more likely to perceive their recovery positively than their white-owned business counterparts (Kim & Chandrasekhar, under review27). These findings suggest the importance of linking capital to HUGO businesses and put a spotlight on the organizations that provide recovery support to these businesses.

Role of Business Support Organizations in Historically Underrepresented Group Operator Recovery

BSOs play a significant role in supporting small, local businesses through technical assistance, supplementary aid, knowledge transfer, formal representation, and peer support (Quinn, 2004; Hutchinson et al., 200928; Dyba & De Marchi, 2022). In disaster recovery, BSOs can serve as vital information conduits, disseminating crucial details about federal aid and recovery programs to raise awareness within underrepresented business circles and guiding businesses through complex aid application processes (Dua et al., 2020). Despite these indications of their importance and the importance of social capital in HUGO recovery, however, there is very little research conducted on BSO roles in HUGO businesses’ recovery after disasters. The majority of studies that investigated the role of support organizations in disaster recovery focused on how nonprofits and community-based organizations aid household or community-level recovery (Drennan & Morrissey, 201929; Delilah et al. 202030). While these studies offered valuable insights into the general influence of support organizations in disaster recovery, there is a need for research more specific to business support and the challenges of providing such support to HUGOs in recovery.

Research Questions

This study asks the following two research questions with the aim of understanding the role of BSOs in promoting the recovery of HUGO businesses after disasters:

  1. What services and resources do BSOs provide to HUGO businesses in the post-disaster context?
  2. What are the key challenges and opportunities that BSOs experience while assisting HUGOs in their recovery?

Research Design

Study Site

The state of Utah is known for its robust economy, fiscal stability, and diversification of industries, all of which are facilitated by a concerted effort toward promoting local businesses (Davis, 202331). Recent statistics reveal a notable rise in minority-owned businesses within Utah, partially attributed to the Small Business Administration's loan programs (Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity, 201632). While the state's Economic Vision 2030 Strategy promoted quantified growth models, startup business support, and a strong industrial future, it overlooks the essential need to assist in HUGO business growth, and importantly, in enhancing these businesses’ disaster resilience.

This oversight is particularly important in light of recent disasters in Utah, which have exposed a lack of disaster preparedness within the local business community. A recent survey of local businesses in Salt Lake City affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 Magna earthquake revealed that nearly 76% of businesses lacked any form of disaster response plan (Kim & Chandrasekhar, under review). The study also showed that, although 102 businesses (50%) received financial assistance from business recovery support organizations, this aid did not necessarily lead to improved preparedness or foster mitigation actions. Only 9 businesses (8%), including two minority-owned ones, reported that the recovery aid programs had contributed to enhancing their protection against future disasters.

The underutilization of recovery aid programs by local businesses in Utah, and specifically by HUGOs, calls for more research on the types of institutions involved in the recovery assistance process. This study seeks to provide valuable insights into these institutions by focusing on the role of BSOs as recovery agents for HUGO businesses.

Data Collection

Interview Sampling

We conducted 21 in-depth interviews with key stakeholders from various BSOs in the study region. We used snowball sampling methods to identify key informants from governmental, quasi-governmental, and nonprofit BSOs operating in Utah. This includes chambers of commerce, economic development agencies, business alliances, and other business advocacy groups. Informants from nongovernmental organizations were chosen to reflect a diverse set of HUGO categories, including race/ethnicity and gender; there were no veteran-specific BSOs identified within Utah. Informants were selected to also reflect geographic diversity around the state. Sampling was stopped at the point of data saturation which occurs when sufficient data is collected to conclude on the research question and additional data collection does not produce additional insights into the subject (Low, 201933). Once we noticed this pattern and felt that additional interviews were unlikely to contribute substantially different perspectives, we considered data saturation to have been reached.

A full list of study participant characteristics is shown in Table 1. Participants were made aware of the study's procedures and requirements through a thorough consent process, which followed the guidelines established by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the University of Utah.

Interview Procedures

All interviews were conducted online via Zoom between June and July 2023. Interview topics included information about the BSO’s activities; knowledge and understanding of disaster impacts on HUGOs; aid and assistance activities specific to HUGOs; and institutional challenges and opportunities of providing recovery support to HUGOs. Interviews took an average of 45 minutes and were audio recorded to aid with interviewer notetaking. All interviews were transcribed and de-identified before data analysis.

Table 1. Study participant characteristics.

Organizational Sector N=21 %
Government/Quasi-Government 10 48%
State 1 5%
County 4 19%
City 5 24%
Non-Government 11 52%
Ethnicity-Based 6 29%
Gender-Based 3 14%
Non-Specific Community-Based 2 10%
Geographic location
Statewide 12 57%
Inside Salt Lake County 5 24%
Outside Salt Lake County 4 19%

Data Analysis Procedures

We performed qualitative content analysis on the transcribed interview data. The content analysis involved a two-step thematic approach using ATLAS.ti (v23) software. In the initial step, the interview data was carefully reviewed to identify significant passages of text, referred to as 'codable moments,' that captured the researchers' attention (Althaus et al., 200134). Initial codebooks were developed based on a review of existing literature. In the subsequent step, the text previously identified as significant was coded, and any new themes that emerged from the data but were not initially included in the codebooks were identified. This iterative process enabled the refinement of the coding framework after each coding session.

The researchers categorized contextual elements that represented the roles of BSOs, encompassing instances where BSOs engaged with underrepresented businesses. This comprehensive analysis provided a deeper understanding of the intricate interactions and challenges faced by BSOs in supporting HUGO businesses during disaster recovery.

Ethical Considerations and Researcher Positionality

This study involves human subjects research, which was approved by the University of Utah IRB on January 3, 2023, prior to initiating data collection activities. To protect confidentiality of the study participants, all participant identifiers have been removed or generalized. The interviews were conducted with informed consent and participation was voluntary.

Researcher positionality played an important role in both the selection of the research topic and in the data collection activities. Both the authors belong to minority populations, which, in addition to research highlighting the importance of the issue, also influenced our choice to study disaster experiences of other minority populations. Second, the minority status of the authors aided in the recruitment of participants of this study, many of whom also identified with minority status and were more willing to participate in the study


COVID-19 Impact on Historically Underrepresented Group Operators

The study found consensus among the participants, regardless of the specific type of BSOs they represented, that the pandemic had caused significant harm to local businesses in Utah. Dealing with this novel and unprecedented type of disaster proved to be a complex task, as it presented challenges that hadn't been encountered before. Despite this general agreement, however, a noteworthy contrast emerged between the perspectives of governmental organizations and nonprofit BSOs in the pace at which businesses in Utah were recovering from the impact of COVID-19 and whether aid had been distributed equitably.

Participants from government BSOs tended to claim that well-funded and well-established support structures had hastened recovery from the pandemic in Utah. These insights aligned with the broader understanding that businesses fortified with strong networks and substantial resources are better equipped to navigate adversities and regain stability promptly (Kristiansen, 2004). As one Salt Lake County official said:

“[What] we learned through the pandemic was that the stronger business districts recovered quicker (…) Like, Salt Lake City has relatively recovered a lot faster in our downtown than a lot of other major metropolitan downtowns. And that has been due to an organized body like the Downtown Alliance that is funded through a special assessment area.”

Conversely, participants from nonprofit BSOs reported that minority business communities had had a very difficult recovery. According to some study participants, initial post-disaster resource allocation had favored communities that aligned with a predominantly white demographic, leading to delays in funding to minority communities. For instance, one BSO official that works with minority groups said,

“We had this conversation last week. At one of our meetings, where Covid recovery was the least available to marginalized identities of color. And I think Salt Lake City, being very primarily white-centered, those resources were going to the businesses that are more representative of white [owners].”

Study participants also reported a significant disparity in aid provision to regions outside of Salt Lake County, which had significant negative implications for HUGOs in more remote parts of the state. Study participants from outside Salt Lake County described how the lower presence of minority groups in those regions had reduced the overall recognition of challenges faced by HUGO businesses, both before and after the disasters. This lack of awareness resulted in a diminished focus on providing tailored support for these businesses. Another BSO executive described how the approach to economic development and investment strategies in more remote areas of the state tended to favor larger companies over smaller, leading to fewer opportunities and resources for HUGO businesses. Lastly, one county-level official described how regions with limited resources tended to prioritize recovery efforts by allocating resources to sectors perceived as having higher economic value or to initiatives with the broadest impact. Unfortunately, this one-size-fits-all approach may have inadvertently neglected the needs of HUGO businesses, especially in areas where their presence is less concentrated and their needs less visible.

Roles of Business Support Organizations in Historically Underrepresented Group Operator Recovery

Interviews suggested that BSOs employed a combination of strategies, including leveraging community presence, networking, referrals, online promotion, in-person events, personalized support, and continuous engagement, to engage with and serve the HUGO business community. Some organizations relied on their long-standing presence in the community and word-of-mouth to attract individuals to their services. One study participant reported that their organization would visit over 300 businesses annually to establish personal relationships and help understand their needs better. These visits helped them develop connections and subsequently reach out to people when they required help for pandemic recovery. Another participant described how their organization received referrals from people who had previously received help and assistance from them; these satisfied individuals recommended the organization's services to others in need.

Some BSOs reported having utilized social media platforms to promote their services and engage with the HUGO community. They created online content on recovery resources and shared information about aid-related events with local businesses. BSOs also reported visiting other BSOs, attending events held by various chambers of commerce, and networking with other BSOs to increase their overall outreach to the HUGO and small business communities. Study participants described how they often prioritized building relationships, fostering collaboration, and creating a supportive community environment for HUGO businesses. This included organizing business cohorts; “mastermind” groups—small groups of individuals who come together to support each other's growth and success; and events to foster peer-to-peer interactions among business owners. For example, one executive from a BSO focused on LGBTQ+ issues said,

“It's interactions among business owners [that's] really important to me. And it's important to [us] to be part of a collaboration like that as well, because LGBT individuals come from every background, every walk of life, every race, ethnicity, age, gender, all the things; so to be able to collaborate so that people can have support.”

To build HUGO business and resilience capacity, BSOs reported offering specialized activities and training for business development. Some organizations conducted workshops and training sessions focused on specific ethnic and gender identities. For example, one participant described their capacity building activities as beginning with listening to HUGO business owners:

“What can we do for them? First, listening to how we can help. A lot of the time we get caught up in trying to work their business, and we don't know their business. That's their business, that's their dream. The majority [of what] we can do is mentor and guide….we're just here to provide the resources for you to walk.‬”

Lastly, multiple BSOs reported being very careful about ensuring that their events and resources were made accessible to everyone. For example, one participant described how their events promote inclusivity:

“We did many events by partnering with existing organizations just to make sure that we are providing additional resources to the community informing them about the resources available to every business, regardless of their background. Knowing that a language barrier is a challenge for a lot of minority-owned businesses, we were able to also provide targeted outreach programs and grants to small, community-based organizations so that they can [do] more effective [outreach].”

Challenges Faced by Business Support Organizations in Recovery Operations

BSOs related three types of common challenges they faced in their HUGO recovery support activities. First, BSOs reported challenges associated with developing and maintaining relationships with other government agencies. Some of this was attributed to miscommunication related to issues of cultural differences. For example, one ethnicity-based BSO representative offered this story to explain how this gatekeeping impedes their advocacy for their business community:

“So, for example, I went to Capitol Hill [regarding] recent legislation and I was told, ‘The $300,000 that you're asking to help your community, we can't give it to you because we're not giving it to any chamber [of commerce].’ And I'm sitting there like, well, I'm the only chamber [of my type] in existence! And we've never been at this table, and now that I'm at this table you're excluding us! So how are you gonna help us? Because the majority of the help that we've received [requires us to] be like them, right? We have to be a certain Americanized way. But [they do] not understand that we come with our own abilities, our own drive, our own sense of community that can actually help American society if we just embrace those differences. We've been so much a minority that we stay a minority. [But] we're not a minority, we can actually do it.‬‬”

Second, BSOs reported challenges due to a lack of organizational staffing and budgets. As multiple participants pointed out, most chambers of commerce (a prominent type of BSO in Utah) are nonprofits run by volunteers, which limits their ability to provide comprehensive services at the level they desire:

“‪When it's a volunteer [in the chamber], it's really difficult, because when you have an employee you can hold them accountable, [but] when it's on a volunteer basis, you're at their mercy. You can't say, “Well, why aren't you here today?” Because you're…not paying them. So, It's always difficult when you're a nonprofit, and you have to rely on volunteers.”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Lastly, governmental and quasi-governmental BSOs often reported experiencing challenges with networking with HUGOs in order to provide recovery assistance. To some participants, the most significant barrier to this networking arises from the historic disconnect between HUGO businesses and government authorities. One participant from a state-level BSO that focuses on issues related to ethnicity described a general misconception among governmental BSOs who believed that merely offering opportunities to HUGOs would be adequate for their recovery. On the other hand, minority business owners—especially those originating from countries with a history of government abuse, fraud, and lack of trust—often harbor skepticism toward government initiatives in the United States. This skepticism persists even with apparently cost-free programs, as they may anticipate hidden expenses or repercussions:

“Just in general about helping minorities…I was still impressed with how much people still don't understand—in any facet of government—about the mentality of historically marginalized people. So, they often think if you put an opportunity out there, and if [they] don't take advantage of the opportunity, then it's [their] fault, right? [They] didn't take advantage of it. But there [is a] factor they forget. A lot of our immigrant populations, who are the fastest growing business owners, come from countries where there's no trust in the government, or government is abusive or fraudulent…they take advantage.”

Opportunities to Support Business Support Organization Recovery Functions

Our research findings indicate that governmental entities in Utah have undertaken proactive steps to access and support HUGOs through their recovery. One of the key strategies involves forming partnerships with ethnic, gender, and community-based BSOs. By collaborating with these organizations, governmental entities tap into the expertise and insights regarding the specific challenges and requirements of underrepresented businesses. For instance, one governmental BSO executive described how these partnerships helped improve their aid services to HUGO businesses.

“‪What we did [for COVID-19 recovery] is really we looked to champions and leaders in the minority communities, and that was through our diverse chambers. Those partnerships became incredibly valuable during COVID, especially because those were those entities where the businesses were going for help. We could connect with those chambers, to say, “Here are our resources, please share these with the community, and please give us feedback on how we can support them further.”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

A second opportunity can be described as a challenge-driven solution that led to improved capacity for BSOs, especially HUGO-specific ones. One ethnic BSO executive described how their members were facing a cultural dilemma around funeral practices that was affecting business profitability. In some prominent sub-cultures in Utah, cultural tradition dictates that businesses close for a prolonged period of time during funerals within the family. However, lacking other financial support during such closures, businesses struggled to keep up with the cost of operations, resulting in some HUGOs making a trade-off between maintaining family-centered customs and maintaining the business. As this study participant described, their ethnic BSO was able to help solve this issue by helping translate and transfer knowledge between their member businesses and local commercial banks, which emerged as new sources of aid for HUGO businesses:

“And so we've asked [the local bank] to sit with us, go through that programming for us, and make sense of it. So that way it speaks to our terms. How can we understand, for example, what you mean by a bereavement fund? Which is the funeral fund? How does that look? What does that savings and the business plan look like to help our community understand that you can do that? And so those are the things we're helping in to make assistance be culturally relevant.”


This study set out to examine how BSOs facilitate HUGO business recovery, and the challenges and opportunities they face in this effort. The study finds that there is a significant need for BSOs to aid in HUGO recovery because, by all accounts, small businesses—specifically, HUGO businesses—have experienced significant impacts from recent disasters in Utah. Study participants, however, differed on the effectiveness of disaster aid to this community, with government-affiliated BSOs generally feeling positive about their efforts toward HUGOs, and ethnic- and gender-based BSOs feeling like the response was not equitable across minority communities. BSOs attributed this disparity to lack of social connectedness in minority communities. Impacts to HUGO businesses were also attributed to their location within and outside of large urban areas, with businesses located outside experiencing further marginalization and invisibility owing to their very small numbers or to “biggest bang for the buck” aid approaches. Both these findings on HUGO impact only serve to further emphasize the potential and importance of BSOs to the formation of linking social capital in HUGOs, with the major implication being that HUGO businesses connected with BSOs are more likely to have higher visibility and networks within higher levels of governance.

The study finds that BSOs certainly rise to the challenge of supporting HUGO businesses after disasters. BSOs use a wide variety of strategies to identify and serve HUGOs, including but not limited to personal networking, hosting networking and peer support events, and use of social media. When working with HUGOs, these organizations are particularly cautious of issues of inclusion and access and make special efforts like personal visits and language translation to broaden participation in their programming.

The work that BSOs do is not without challenges, however. As this study shows, BSOs identifying with specific HUGO groups face challenges of cultural insensitivity from outside organizations, as well difficulties as with staffing capacity. The volunteer-heavy operations of most BSOs appear to hinder their ability to offer the services they aspire to, which points to a need for capacity-building for this set of organizations. Given their importance to social capital formation in HUGOs, increased BSO capacity to offer recovery functions could directly result in improved HUGO recovery. The study also identified two opportunities for increasing BSO capacity to support HUGO recovery. The first is the recognition of the value BSOs provide as sources of cultural information and access to HUGOs for equitable aid dissemination. The second is the self-realization among BSOs that they can mediate between formal financial institutions and HUGO businesses in ways that meet the economic logic of the former and the culture-specific needs of the latter.


While the importance of social capital in community recovery has been well-established in literature, less is known about its importance to small businesses, and HUGO businesses specifically. Even less is known about the importance of certain types of social capital for this business community. This study fills these gaps by focusing on actions BSOs take to facilitate HUGO business recovery using the case example of Utah. As this study shows, BSOs provide a key opportunity for HUGOs to be connected to broader sets of recovery resources and to be represented in culturally sensitive ways. However, BSOs also face capacity and culture-related challenges in their own work, which calls for practice and policy interventions to build BSO capacity, and through that, facilitate HUGO business recovery on the ground.

Implications for Practice and Policy

These study findings have two clear implications for post-disaster economic recovery policy and practice, both of which can significantly improve equity outcomes for disaster-affected HUGO businesses. The first implication relates to the potential of BSOs in helping federal, state, and local economic recovery agencies to access HUGOs and promote their recovery. As this study shows, BSOs often have a deep and nuanced understanding of HUGO businesses, their cultural aspects, and their recovery challenges. More robust partnerships with BSOs before and after disasters can help increase the outreach of business recovery programs to not only small businesses, but specifically HUGOs, since small business recovery is closely tied to HUGO recovery. Recovery authorities should also consider identifying community ‘navigators’ from BSO staff to help them become more deeply aware of and connected to HUGO businesses. These ‘navigators’ could act as essential conduits of bi-directional information exchange while also addressing issues of community mistrust toward traditional government agencies.

The second implication relates to the importance of building capacity of BSOs to actively participate in economic recovery functions in support of HUGOs. As this study shows, BSOs need and desire capacity-building in terms of funding—to hire full-time staff, for example—and network with other BSOs and recovery agencies. Federal, state, and local governments can all participate in such capacity-building efforts, both before and after disasters, through workshops on recovery management and grant writing, and by facilitating networking within these organizations. Importantly, economic recovery planners and policymakers should focus on increasing cultural competency within their own ranks. This can be done through staff training and greater interaction with minority-serving BSOs in non-disaster times. The CONVERGE Training Modules on ethical disaster practice offered by the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder also present a resource for organizations working with minority groups after disasters.


In addition to limitations based on time and monetary constraints, this study has two other limitations owed to its research design. First, this study focuses exclusively on the state of Utah, which could face distinct challenges compared to other regions due to geographical, economic, and cultural factors. Nevertheless, several of our findings, particularly those related to cultural insensitivity, have broad relevance. Second, this study presents self-reported actions of BSOs, which introduces an element of bias since BSOs are more likely to report their successes than failures. To address this, interviews with HUGO operators about their interactions with BSOs and the effectiveness of these interactions towards their recovery must be added.

Future Research Directions

As a way to address some of the existing limitations, the principal investigator of the study is currently engaged in research examining the recovery of Asian American businesses in Chinatown in Manhattan as an example of HUGO businesses. This study also focuses on the use of social capital among HUGO businesses, but with emphasis on business-level experience. Conducting a study in a region outside of Utah also allows for greater case comparison with the current study, thus addressing limitations to generalizability of results.


This research was supported through the FEMA Region 8 Quick Response Research Award Program of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder.


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Suggested Citation:

Sua, K., & Chandrasekhar, D. (2023). The Role of Business Support Organizations in Advancing Equitable Economic Recovery (Natural Hazards Center Quick Response Research Report Series, Report 357). Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado Boulder.

Sua, K., & Chandrasekhar, D. (2023). The Role of Business Support Organizations in Advancing Equitable Economic Recovery (Natural Hazards Center Quick Response Research Report Series, Report 357). Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado Boulder.