This last year was filled with obstacles for many businesses, some of which had to close their doors for good due to COVID-19. It was a struggle for many business-owners and employees alike to stay solvent. Organizations like the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) have dedicated a wide range effort assisting businesses so that they can continue to do business here in Thurston County. Gene Angel, director of research and evaluation, shares some of the exciting impacts the Thurston EDC was able to make throughout 2020 and offers insight into the goals of the organization.

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The Thurston EDC impacts a wide range of industries. You can see that many industries were able to see growth and support under the programs and services offered by the EDC. Photo courtesy: Thurston EDC

The Thurston Economic Development Council is the lead economic development agency for Thurston County as designated by the Washington State Department of Commerce. They are highly focused on keeping businesses profitable and offering services to keep them from leaving the county due to economic struggles. Their primary focuses are on recruitment of economic investment/jobs and employers, retaining jobs and labor income, and providing support and programs to the local economy to ensure businesses can thrive in Thurston County.

Through their committed efforts, the Thurston EDC was able to save 1,207 jobs in our community in 2020. Gene explains that there is a multiplier effect that happens when money can continue to be earned and circulated in our community. Money spent at one place can create economic value that multiplies as it is used by the next person. “For every single dollar we administer through our programs, we have been able to return $23.51 to the local economy,” Gene shares. This means that the Thurston EDC has a multiplier of 23.51, which is remarkable considering the struggles our community and many others continue to face during the pandemic.

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The Thurston EDC strives to retain jobs as much as possible here in Thurston County to keep our local economy strong. This is what they were able to accomplish between April 2020 and December 2020. Photo courtesy: Thurston EDC

Training Programs for Women

The Thurston EDC offers a variety of coaching and training services can help local entrepreneurs become a more successful business – from start-up to scale-up.  One example of these services focuses on women-owned businesses.  The EDC, through its Center for Business & Innovation, started in 2014 a mentorship/assistance program focused on women entrepreneurs, the WA Center for Women in Business.  In addition to providing coaching and training programs for women in business, the Thurston EDC made it a priority in 2020 to support childcare efforts so single moms, working women, and dual-income families could return to work. Michael Cade, executive director of the Thurston EDC, had this to say about the childcare situation. “The childcare system is an underpinning of the entire ecosystem of our region, state and country. It is imperative that we create solutions and a system that is affordable and accessible to families, all the while ensuring that the provider is a strong and vibrant business model.”

Childcare Stabilization Grant

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Good Times Childcare was one of the many recipients of the Childcare Stabilization Grant. This money helped preschools purchase the necessary masks, sanitizer, and other necessary supplies to keep children safe. Photo courtesy: Thurston EDC

It is clear to see how powerful childcare is for families across our community.  The Thurston EDC served as the administrator of the Thurston Strong economic recovery partnership, which, among other programs, focused on directing resources to childcare providers. The goal of this partnership was to ensure that the entrepreneurial system created would support the maintenance and strengthening of childcare services during the pandemic. The Childcare Stabilization Grant was $3 million of CARES Act funding that helped local preschools stay open and well-supported during the shutdown so working parents could continue to earn an income. Bonnie Cox of Busy Bee Preschool shares her gratitude with the Thurston EDC in the following testimonial:

“Receiving the Childcare Stabilization Grant gave me a sense of security that I would be able to continue offering quality childcare to Thurston County families. Being able to adjust tuition based on their childcare needs was a huge blessing for them, and because of this grant I was able to do so and not stress about paying the bills. This grant also allowed me to purchase items needed to maintain cleaning and health practices due to Covid-19. Thank you so much for supporting my business and other childcare providers here in Thurston County.”

The Thurston EDC is grateful to be supported by a few different funding sources so they can continue to make a difference in the community. The organization operates through public funding from the Washington State Department of Commerce, standing economic development contracts from local Thurston County jurisdictions, and private sector investments. This funding allows the Thurston EDC to offer their services to our local businesses at an affordable and reasonable cost. The Board of Directors for the Thurston EDC has adopted a budget that ensures resources are available to all business in the area. Additionally, the Thurston EDC has public partners that fund scholarships to help businesses with a financial need. “We don’t price anyone out,” Gene says. “We find out how to serve them and determine how to fund the support they need.”

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Sandstone Distillery was able to provide hand sanitizer to the local community through support from the Thurston EDC and Thurston County Chamber.
Photo courtesy: Thurston EDC

For businesses that need support, Thurston EDC is an exceptional resource that is committed to finding solutions to help small and medium-sized businesses grow. “It doesn’t matter what the problem is,” Gene says. “Whether it is understanding the market, reviewing and improving their financials, or helping them to write a business plan, we can help.” The Thurston EDC has the resources, technical expertise, and network connections to get business owners the help and support they need to thrive no matter the circumstances.

If you operate here in Thurston County, the Thurston Economic Development Council is ready to get to know you and help you too. Contact them today to get the support you need to grow your business.

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