Washingtonians have been living with impacts from the Coronavirus for more than six months. During that time, nearly every aspect of life has changed in some way. We now work and learn from home, maintain a supply of masks and germ sanitizing cleaners, and run errands only for necessities. To date, our state has seen more than 78,000 confirmed cases and everyone needs a little extra help. This is where the strong civic and community partnerships behind Thurston Strong thrive.

Thurston EDC LogoThurston Strong started in March 2020 when the COVID stay-at-home order came to a crescendo, explains Economic Development Council (EDC) Executive Director Michael Cade. It evolved through a partnership between the EDC, Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, Experience Olympia & Beyond and local Chambers of Commerce who all worked with regional cities and county government officials.

Because more than 90% of Thurston County’s economy comes from small businesses, Thurston Strong aims to be something of a regional cooperative think-tank and resource portal. Through their website businesses and workers can find help, order PPE items like masks and hand sanitizer, and track updates to state and national guidelines. The overall goal is recovery, reset, relaunch, says Cade.

To find out more about their approach, call the hotline or access resources at ThurstonStrong.org. The business hotline runs from Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Small business owners can call 888-821-6652, a hotline funded by the City of Olympia. Someone from their team will help provide working knowledge of all the Thurston Strong resources as well as others from outside organizations. Cade estimates that they’ve helped with more than 18,000 issues since March. Compare this to the approximately 1,200 calls fielded by the EDC in a normal year and the need is apparent.

Businesses can pick up masks and hand sanitizer to use in keeping staff and customers safe. Photo courtesy: Thurston Strong

The Washington Center for Women in Business, a program from the EDC’s Center for Business & Innovation, extended the hotline and the whole EDC family agrees that it and Thurston Strong will continue as an entrepreneurial ecosystem for as long as needed. Calls spiked in the spring when the state’s initial Coronavirus Response was implemented. They slowed during the summer months but have remained steady as we move into fall.

Some assistance comes in the form of grants. Grant writing can be a confusing process but with guidance from Thurston Strong, there are one-time cash opportunities available for childcare providers and a COVID-19 Micro-Business Standup Grant Program for businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

Do you run a business that can provide assistance or supplies? Join the Thurston Strong team today. Simply call the hotline or email Michael Cade at mcade@thurstonedc.com. The team will discuss what resources you can provide, how folks can find you and how to best get the word out.

And if you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out. “The partners participating all have significant resources and a regional approach for economic recovery,” says Cade. “Not a lot of Washington communities have a resource like this.”

All of Thurston Strong’s resources have come through donations of time and goods from many groups, individuals, governments and organizations county-wide, like hand sanitizer from Sandstone Distillery. Photo courtesy: Thurston Strong

Looking for a delightful little pick-me-up? Visit Thurston Stories, a partnership between Thurston Strong and One Sky Films. These local YouTube spotlights showcase how regional businesses have adapted and overcome, with a healthy splash of hope and humor. Because hope is still all around us, even if it’s sometimes trickier to find.

Navigating business is tricky during the best of times and 2020 isn’t making things easy. Tracking what Safe Start phase each county is in, looking for reopening guidance or printing essential business signage takes time from your busy day. Add a family, pets, hobbies, and grocery shopping into the mix, and small business owners feel spread thin. But thanks to the EDC and partnerships like Thurston Strong you never have to go it alone. One stop shopping makes every day easier and their frequent updates make it simpler to read about options, benefits, funding opportunities and support. Make it easier to remember by signing up for their newsletter so the information comes to you. That’s one less thing on your agenda and a guaranteed win/win.

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