WASHINGTON – Today, Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the voice in President Biden’s Cabinet for America’s 33 million small businesses, announced the 2023 Phoenix Award winners. SBA recognizes the Phoenix Award winners every year during National Small Business Week for their inspiring resilience in the aftermath of devastating natural disasters, which climate change has driven more frequently.
“The honorees this year embody the best of America’s entrepreneurial spirit - demonstrating grit, strength, and resilience in the face of tremendous adversity,” said Administrator Guzman. “Each have worked tirelessly to rebuild their businesses better than before, create jobs, and, as a result, continue to power the historic economic recovery under the Biden-Harris Administration.”
This year’s recipients include a small business owner that specializes in refinishing aircraft in Louisiana, a high school history teacher-turned-mayor in Mayfield, KY, and a county employee who perfected the act of getting survivors of the Mayfield tornado what they need.
"Through resilience and determination, this year's awards recipients have weathered the storm and emerged stronger and more prepared for the challenges. They are a true inspiration to us all and a testament to the power of perseverance," said Francisco Sánchez, Jr., Associate Administrator for the Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience. "We are committed to investing in proactive measures that tackle the climate crisis and prioritize long-term mitigation for the 33 million small businesses across America, ensuring they can withstand any challenge that may come their way and remain stronger than ever."
Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity, and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.
In the past year, the Agency’s tireless disaster assistance team responded by delivering nearly $2 billion to help small businesses, renters and homeowners rebuild and recover.
The SBA congratulates the following 2023 National Small Business Week Phoenix Award winners:
Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery
Tyson Grenzebach, President/CEO
Lake Charles, LA
Tyson Grenzebach founded Landlocked Aviation Services in 2009. Tyson and his team worked to build a reputation as professionals providing quality airline refinishing services. A 2015 contract to paint aircraft in Lake Charles allowed Tyson to work with premier airline industry leaders. By 2017, Tyson obtained his own FAA certificate and all operations/leases in Lake Charles, including three large aircraft hangars. Landlocked became a core provider for both Northrop Grumman and Delta. Their revenues grew as he grew their customer base until 2020, when back-to-back disasters struck. While COVID-19 impacts were increasing, especially in the travel and airline industries, Lake Charles was devastated by Hurricane Laura.
Landlocked Industries LLC dealt with physical losses and damages due to the hurricane, obtaining an SBA disaster loan for $2 million to repair and replace the hurricane-damaged property. Due to the COVID-19 impacts, Tyson received $2 million COVID-EIDL funding to retain his professional staff and stay in business. He shared that SBA was a "huge help" to sustain the business during the two very challenging disasters. As a result of SBA assistance and Tyson and the team's hard work, Landlocked had a year of record revenue in 2022 and continues to thrive.
Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official
Kathy Stewart O'Nan, Mayor of Mayfield, KY
City of Mayfield, KY
On December 10, 2021, a tornado ripped through Kentucky. Mayfield, Kentucky, received a direct hit. In the aftermath, only a few buildings were left intact. Once the tornado passed, the situation immediately became a rescue operation. Over 100 people were working the night shift at the Mayfield Consumer Products buildings, commonly known as the "Candle Factory," when the storm hit. People were trapped under the rubble and calling out for help.
Video of the destruction left by the twister played over and over in local media outlets and national news. Pictures of the destroyed Candle Factory facility showed little doubt there would be numerous casualties or worse. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said in an early news conference: "The damage is significant, and we expect multiple fatalities," adding that Graves County and "specifically the city of Mayfield has been hit really hard."
The first-term Mayfield mayor suddenly found herself in the limelight. Mayor Kathy O'Nan said on Sunday after the tornado: "There's always hope. We hope for a miracle. We hope for miracles in the days to come." During an interview on NBC's "Sunday Today with Willie Geist, Mayor O'Nan said: "I remember walking out at 6:15 yesterday morning, and it was just the most heartbreaking thing I've seen," she said. "I hope to never see anything like that again." Months later, when asked what is giving her community hope when churches were destroyed with Christmas just days away, O'Nan pointed to "the volunteerism that sprang up."
Mayor O'Nan engaged the media to report the needs of her city; she worked with FEMA, SBA, Long Term Recovery Committee, nonprofits and emergency management people to gather/report information and keep the community informed. She remained front and center as the voice of optimism, stating, "the community will rebuild without any hesitation."
When the storms hit, the mayor led by example in getting in front of the community and continues to work tirelessly to bring all parties together to rebuild the proud community of Mayfield. She did not shy away from the national media or visits from the Governor, Senators or the President. Mayor Kathy O'Nan was and is at the helm and remains steadfast in the quest to see the city through its recovery.
Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer
Sandra Kaye Delk, Volunteer
In the morning after the tornado hit Mayfield, Kentucky, Sandra Delk, out of concern for the fairgrounds she kept, drove to the facility and fortunately found no damage. The scene in downtown Mayfield was far different. Significant damage could be seen all around. The amount of debris and destruction was almost unimaginable. Instead of returning to her home and watching things unfold, Sandra sprang into action. She advised people with donations to bring them to the fairgrounds. She knew the large warehouse building would be a great place to use because of its close location to the parkway.
Throughout the next days, weeks, months and year, Sandra coordinated a donations warehouse to help the people of Mayfield. Donations came from all over the country. Volunteers — sometimes groups, sometimes just individuals — showed up to help. Sandra organized the volunteers, the storage of the donations, helped the disaster survivors that needed food and goods and even gave media interviews.
Sandra was so efficient, no one would have known that she had not been involved in disaster assistance and donation management as her career. Sandra had the forethought to protect the goods from theft and arranged for an informal security team. When donations of frozen food were made, she obtained freezers and refrigerators. She kept order and organization over the inbound trucks, the unloading of goods, the volunteers and disaster survivors.
A family of mostly Spanish speakers came to the warehouse. She asked if they needed help and they said they had come first to help. They shared their love of Mayfield and ended up helping translate and assist other Spanish-speaking survivors. Sandra just has a way to make people feel they are going to get help and uses her awesome people skills and problem-solving ability — along with her contacts — to make things happen. She is an outstanding volunteer and worthy of SBA's recognition for her contributions toward helping those in the Mayfield community recover.
National Small Business Week (NSBW) will be held April 30-May 6, 2023. This year marks the return of in-person awards ceremonies in Washington, D.C., for the first time since 2019. In addition, the SBA will also cosponsor a virtual summit of business education forums. For additional information about National Small Business Week, please visit www.sba.gov/NSBW.
Co-sponsorship Authorization# 23-1-C The SBA’s participation in this cosponsored activity is not an endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any cosponsor or other person or entity. All SBA programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.
About National Small Business Week
For 60 years, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week recognizing the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business and create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year. As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness. And in recognizing the changing face of America, the SBA’s National Small Business Week awards honor individuals and businesses that reflect our nation’s rich diversity.
About the U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration helps power the American dream of business ownership. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow, expand their businesses or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.