Olympia-based businesses received almost 60% of the $7 million of Thurston Strong's COVID-related grants for businesses and workforce, according to Olympia Economic Development Director Mike Reid, who spoke to the city’s Planning Commission meeting last night.
Reid and Strategic Projects Manager Amy Buckler updated the commissioners on Thurston Strong, the region's economic development response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There is such a heavy concentration inside Olympia because this is the employment epicenter of the region. When you see grants going to businesses or brands associated with the workforce, almost 60% of those end up in Olympia," Reid said.
Under the Thurston Strong program, about $7 million was allotted to grants for small businesses, minority-owned businesses, nonprofits, and agriculture businesses. Buckler said half of these funds had been distributed.
The grants include:
Reid said Thurston Strong has a total of $20 million investment in the community: $11 from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), contributions from Olympia, Tumwater, Port of Olympia and some private donors; and $9 million in emergency grants.
According to Buckler, Thurston Strong, through its partners, responded to the immediate [COVID-19] emergency by setting up a hotline for affected businesses and workers and distributing $9 million in emergency grants.
Olympia joined forces with the other economic development partners in the region to accelerate the region's economic recovery and reset, Buckler said.
According to Buckler, before the pandemic, Olympia had over 55,000 population – about 18% of the county's total population.
She added that in 2017, Olympia had 58,620 jobs – representing 39% of the total employment in Thurston County.
Buckler added that in 2019 Olympia has taxable retail sales of over $2.4 million – about 38% of total county taxable retail sales.
"This pre-pandemic data shows us that more people are commuting into work [Olympia] than leaving to go to work. So it shows that Olympia is a job center," she noted.
Buckler said Olympia is now focusing on planning for longer-term economic resiliency.
She said the focus is to create economic resiliency strategies to support Olympia residents, businesses, the overall community and city organization. "We need revenues to keep up with all these community goals and needs. We are just going underway for this project."
The planning process, which would take 12 to 18 months, will kick off in July, Buckler said.
"We will be going to the city council to kick that off and sending out a community survey in July," Buckler said.
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