Take caution and check for road closures due to wildfires in the North Cascades.
May 2, 2020

Michael Hogan, Port Public Affairs Administrator
Port of Bellingham

New Report Details Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Whatcom County Businesses

The Regional Economic Partnership (REP) at the Port of Bellingham has released a report detailing the results of a general survey on the economic impacts of COVID-19 on Whatcom County businesses. The survey was developed by the REP in coordination with Whatcom Unified Command, the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and Western Washington University’s Small Business Development Center.

The economic impact survey received 756 unique responses from local businesses with 48% reporting closures due to COVID-19. Industry sectors reporting the highest number of closures were services, construction, retail, restaurants and bars, recreation, marine and manufacturing.  53% of survey respondents reported laying off workers due to COVID-19, and an additional 26% of businesses are considering layoffs in the near to medium term if the situation does not change.  

“The need for relief and assistance is immense and it is critical to get direct cash transfers and grants to businesses in need as quickly as possible” said Port Director of Economic Development Don Goldberg.  “This report indicates loans for many small businesses may not be helpful because they are already carrying high debt loads. More tools need to be made available to different business types and operations such as sole proprietors, agriculture, fishing, and other industries that rely heavily upon contract workers.”

450 Whatcom County businesses estimated cumulative losses at over $28 million with the highest average loss per business occurring in the recreation, public, tourism, and restaurant and bar sectors. 

The economic impact report has been distributed to local, county, state, and federal representatives along with a consortium of service providers which support local businesses, Team Whatcom. Survey responses will give elected officials insight into the unique problems caused by COVID-19 on small businesses, inform strategies for economic recovery, and help identify how much state and federal recovery aid will be needed.

“Our Regional Economic Partnership team has been working tirelessly to address the economic hardships which our businesses and families are experiencing. This report is both important and timely, as it helps us to chart a path to recovery,” said Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu. “The latest unemployment numbers out today show that more than one in five workers in our county have lost their job, which really underscores the importance of providing support to businesses so that they can restore these jobs as soon as possible. My office is working with REP to reach out to partners at the state and federal level to access much needed resources.”

About the Regional Economic Partnership

The Regional Economic Partnership at the Port of Bellingham is the associate development organization (ADO) for Whatcom County. REP is funded by the Washington State Department of Commerce, Whatcom County, the Port of Bellingham, and the City of Bellingham. The goal of REP is to retain and attract livable wage jobs and to assist businesses, entrepreneurs, and local organizations to thrive. The group works intensively with local and regional partners to create a resilient community and economy for all and to address the magnitude of COVID-19 impacts. The team has expertise in financing, planning, research, real estate, and technology for the purpose of helping businesses start, develop, and grow throughout Whatcom County, Washington. For more information about the Regional Economic Partnership, please visit www.portofbellingham.com/154/Economic-Development

About the Port of Bellingham 

The Port is a county-wide municipal corporation with a mission to promote sustainable economic development, optimize transportation gateways, and manage publicly owned land and facilities to benefit Whatcom County.  Throughout Whatcom County, the Port owns, operates and maintains approximately 1600 acres of property including a shipping terminal, a cruise terminal, two marinas, industrial development areas, commercial uplands, parklands, shoreline public access areas and an international airport.  For more information about the Port of Bellingham, please visit www.portofbellingham.com   

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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