CEO Corner: Skagit County's road to economic recovery

Sunday, May 03, 2020

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MOUNT VERNON – Today is the beginning of National Economic Development Week.

Normally EDASC would share daily success stories and local examples of the three pillars of our work strategy: business attraction, business retention and expansion, and capacity building.

But these aren’t normal times.

Before March, EDASC staff would be conducting multiple business retention and expansion site visits, organizing maritime cluster meetings, and working with companies from around the country and world seeking to locate to Skagit County.

The fact is, our work has shifted dramatically over the last month and a half to focus almost solely on helping businesses impacted by COVID-19, and looking toward what's next.

We’ve researched, vetted and shared important resources.

We’ve collaborated with several funding organizations to connect businesses, people and organizations with loans, grants and support.

We’ve represented Skagit County’s businesses, organizations and people to policymakers at every level.

And soon we’ll lead an effort to develop the Skagit County Economic Recovery Strategic Plan in collaboration with county officials and other regional stakeholders.

This is just a sample, not the buffet of what economic development looks like today. And it is clear our work is perhaps more important than ever.

We are excited to begin work on this strategic planning process. It will be a multi-pronged, broad-based approach enlisting the business community, government, education, nonprofits and other stakeholders to help EDASC form and chart a path forward. The plan will include steps we all need to take to recover over the coming months and years.

Another change that you may have noticed lately is that we’ve further expanded our communications, providing more frequent updates on what staff is learning from policymakers to make sure you have the most up-to-date information.

You’ve likely also seen our extensive resource guide for businesses and workers published online. The guide is regularly updated.

We’ve also helped businesses with their EIDL and PPP loan applications, either directly or through our partner organizations. The tools can seem daunting to those focused solely on running their business, but we are here to help, so reach out to us at office@skagit.org.

Like all of you, we’ve also experienced our difficult moments.

Last week, we sent emails to hundreds of local small business owners notifying them that their Working Washington Small Business Emergency Grant application failed to make the second round for state review. When all is said and done, only about 24 out of the 400 businesses in Skagit County that applied will be awarded the grant of up to $10,000.

EDASC and its confidential volunteer review committee read each of your stories of hardship, and it was extremely difficult for all involved to only send 60 applications to the State Department of Commerce for further review.

However, EDASC was happy to provide follow-up information to applicants who didn’t make the first cut for this very limited loan opportunity, providing additional loan and grant opportunities, no-cost business support services and more. Again, please reach out to us at office@skagit.org if you are seeking support for your business. Even if we can’t help you, we will know who can.

Looking ahead, our state by all accounts is beginning to emerge from the tunnel. Restrictions are slowly lifting, with the proper safegards. Existing construction projects have been allowed to resume. Outdoor recreation is opening May 5. The pathway to reopening more businesses will become clearer and clearer as testing increases and more PPE is made available.

As always, EDASC will continue to offer our full array of economic development services and continue to adapt as we work through this crisis together as a county and region. That seems to be the best way to observe Economic Development Week. On behalf of the EDASC team, staff, directors, investors and partners, we wish you all good health and future success.

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