CEO Corner: Skagit County up to this challenge

Friday, March 20, 2020

Main News Photo

During this health and resulting economic crisis, Skagit County businesses -- along with those in the rest of the state, country and world – have faced unprecedented adversity.

There have been forced closures, layoffs, scaled-down operations, cancelled events and contracts, illnesses, and everything in between.

But through these uncertain and difficult times, one thing is apparent: the Skagit County business community and residents are up to this challenge.

The examples of innovation, problem-solving, civic-mindedness, and collaboration have been apparent through our daily interactions, social media, news stories, and more.

Businesses across the county have adjusted their operations to meet current public needs while abiding by social distancing policies.

Forced to close in-house dining services, restaurants have responded by expanding take-out options. Furthermore, it’s been heartening to see the support this hard-hit industry has received from the community. Chambers of Commerce and downtown associations have rallied behind the food service and retail industries, suggesting creative promotions. The Skagit Valley Herald has published a free and growing list of businesses offering takeout. Image 360 in Burlington is offering free banners for these restaurants and food service providers.

The list of support goes on.

Elsewhere, landlords have offered lease payment deferrals or a one-month holiday. Banks are finding ways to offer flexibility to their borrowers. And currently, no one has to worry about utilities being shut off or eviction notices.

Businesses in other hard-hit industries are finding creative ways to adjust to these new circumstances.

BRENSEL Hospitality Consulting Principal Lennart Bentsen has been providing pro bono work with clients, connecting hoteliers with government officials and hospitals so that otherwise-empty hotels might be temporarily leased and used to house patients or those in quarantine, should that need arise.

Eddyline Kayaks, a Burlington kayak manufacturer, announced today it is standing ready to produce critically needed plastic components in response to President Donald Trump invoking the Defense Production Act, which mobilizes the U.S. industrial base to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other local manufacturers are researching how they might aid in the effort.

In an effort to keep its employees working, Goodwinds Composites, a Mount Vernon manufacturer, repurposed their break room for their staffs’ children to use as a classroom while school is suspended.

These are just a few of the examples of Skagit’s innovative and collaborative spirit.

On the update front, we got word today from the state Department of Commerce that a plan will be announced early next week to use $5 million from the governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund for small grants. So stay tuned early next week for how businesses can take advantage of those grants.

They will likely be relatively small, $10,000 or less, to provide bridge assistance with operating expenses until we resume some degree of normalcy.

This has been a challenging and emotional week full of unaccustomed personal and business adjustments. Know that EDASC will continue to be here to help connect you and your business with the resources you need. We will continue to update the COVID-19 Resources tab on our website as well.

Please reach out to us for business support at office@skagit.org, since most staff have begun working remotely as of this week.

EDASC’s in-house Small Business Development Center Advisor Cindy Brooks is also available to offer no-cost business advising. This includes help with submitting an SBA Disaster Loan.

Before connecting with Cindy, please make sure you create an account with the SBDC.

Once again, thank you for showing what Skagit County is all about and coming together amid adversity.

John Sternlicht is the CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County. The Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County carries out business attraction, retention and expansion and collaborative engagement to achieve a prosperous, sustainable and equitable community while maintaining Skagit County's natural beauty and quality of life.

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