WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Several small businesses are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, and Gov. Roy Cooper paid a visit to the area Thursday to tour some of the shops.
The governor stopped at The Foxes Boxes in downtown Wilmington. The restaurant fed more than 3,500 people during and after the storm and also served as a distribution center for the area, with the owners collecting and handing out relief items.
Cooper said he wanted to thank businesses like The Foxes Boxes that stepped up to help the community.
“When we think about our business community, specifically our small business, so many of them stepped up in the storm to help people," Cooper said. “I wanted to come say thank you to Rachel Fox and her team for the work that she did and also say that this is something we all need to do to help each other.
“We also want our communities to support our small businesses so I’m out saying that we’ve got to make sure that they’re back on their feet because many of the small businesses provide good paying jobs for people and we want them to be able to work hard.”
Fox, the owner of the restaurant, said the past few months have been overwhelming.
“I can’t put words to how grateful…I start to cry for everyone’s support," she said. “We’re still just two people running a restaurant so now we’re running a relief center, a restaurant, a job training program, 80 hours a week in addition, so it’s like trying to find that balance.”
Cooper also gave an update on the FEMA trailers that are supposed to be coming to the area. He said FEMA will start setting up about 30 trailers as soon as possible. According to Cooper, 24 have been set up across the state so far.
The governor said he will fight for as many federal and state dollars as he can in hurricane relief for a storm with damage costs exceeding the combined total of hurricanes Floyd and Matthew.
“We knew this storm was bad and ($17 billion in damage costs) confirms it," Cooper said. “We have to redouble our efforts to make sure that we fight for as many dollars as we can, both federal and state government, that we organize our volunteer groups and that we have to make a big push to make sure North Carolina recovers stronger and smarter because that’s a significant amount of damage for our state. We know how bad Floyd was and how bad Matthew was. This shows the magnitude of Florence.”
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo met the governor at The Foxes Boxes. Saffo was in Washington, D.C., this week talking to federal lawmakers about relief aid.
“I just wanted to go to Washington to do my job as the mayor of this city, to share with them the needs that we’re going to have in the coming years," Saffo said. "This is not going to be repaired in one year. This is going to take two, maybe three years to fully repair, to fully recover from this storm, but I wanted to let them know we were here. We have specific needs and a lot of needs for our area and our region and I wanted to be part of a group that’s going to help bring dollars to southeastern North Carolina to help build.”
Saffo said he plans to go back to D.C. soon for another talk with lawmakers.