By Dan Mearns, The Sun, Port Charlotte, Fla. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 2--Hurricane Charley was the top story of 2004 in the Sun circulation area in every section of the newspaper, so pervasive was the storm on all aspects of residents' lives.
The storm itself was news and the aftermath will continue to be news for years to come.
Hurricane Charley devastated the business districts in Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Arcadia, where countless storefronts and interiors were ripped apart. Slowly but surely, however, stores and shops began to reopen as the business community began to recover and regenerate.
U.S. Small Business Administration relief loans helped, as did state Emergency Bridge Loans and other sources. The Charlotte County Economic Development Office spearheaded the opening of the Business Assistance Center in Port Charlotte, which provided loan applications and professional business counseling.
Federal National Emergency grants were awarded to help get people back to work, and the Agency for Workforce Innovation offered programs to both employees and employers. Meanwhile, a flood of outside workers descended on the area for the long cleanup and rebuilding …