Small businesses across the country and around the Gulf Coast — including those in our own Tampa Bay area — represent the heartbeat of our communities. We have the power to help kick-start the sluggish U.S. economy and begin the rebuilding after a natural disaster.

In 2013 we started our company, 3 Daughters Brewing, now one of the fastest-growing breweries in Florida. During Hurricane Irma, we offered our brewery as a shelter for friends and neighbors who were under mandatory evacuation orders. We housed 55 people, 12 dogs and six cats at the brewery. And while we were extremely fortunate, we know there were many to the south of us who were hit much harder.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly 40 percent of small businesses never recover and don’t reopen after a natural disaster. That has a ripple effect across the community and local economy, as small businesses account for nearly two-thirds of new jobs and half of our country’s economic output.

The Small Business Series event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday in Tampa is our chance to do just that. This event will bring together some of the most inspiring, innovative and successful entrepreneurs and business leaders from around the country to share their experiences and advice on starting, running, growing and rebuilding a business.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is offering complimentary registration to all attendees in recognition of the recent hardships Floridians have faced with Hurricane Irma.

Leigh and Mike Harting, St. Petersburg

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