A path to recovery

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Resources to help your business regain its footing

As our battle with the novel coronavirus and its many impacts continues, we can start planning our recovery. A number of organizations in Whatcom County are part of that important effort.

In March, Whatcom Unified Command designated the Regional Economic Partnership, led by the Port of Bellingham Economic Impact Team, as the lead economic impact agency and the lead coordinating organization for Whatcom County.

The Port of Bellingham is our state-designated associate development organization, authorized and empowered to work directly with the Washington State Department of Commerce in stewarding economic development in Whatcom County.

The Port of Bellingham created the Regional Economic Partnership to deliver a coordinated, efficient and responsive development ecosystem. During the coronavirus crisis, the partnership assures that all efforts for assessing and addressing economic impacts are coordinated, helping ensure that businesses and entrepreneurs receive consistent and correct information and access to resources.

The Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce is taking the lead on organizing and coordinating with all Whatcom County chambers responsible for networking and disseminating information among their members. The Western Washington University Small Business Development Center was assigned the lead on technical assistance for businesses, providing access to resources as they become available and acting as the business and entrepreneur resource hub for the county. The SBDC monitors emerging recovery assistance opportunities, disseminates vetted program information and provides assistance in gaining access.To more effectively fill this role, the SBDC is offering a link on the center’s home page to business continuity resources, a regularly updated selection of information about local, regional, state and national recovery resources. The SBDC also provides daily updates on Facebook (facebook.com/BellinghamSBDC) and offers a weekly newsletter focused on getting Whatcom County back to work as this crisis subsides. Our state agencies are also working diligently to support business and have offered regulatory, remittance and financial relief programs. The Washington State Employment Security Department has eliminated waiting periods, suspended job search requirements and extended standby times to help both employers and employees gain greater flexibility during this crisis. The Paid Sick Leave program can help employees maintain income during this crisis, providing paid leave for workers to care for themselves and their families and to look after children out of school due to health-related closures. The Paid Family and Medical Leave program can provide paid leave benefits for absences due to a serious health condition or to care for a family member. The Washington State Department of Revenue is asking all businesses to continue to file returns and renewals in a timely manner but is offering relief for payments due.

Your Western Washington University Small Business Development Center has served the Whatcom County businesses community for more than 35 years with free and confidential technical assistance to help you survive and thrive. Business owners face complex challenges every day. You and your company resources may be stretched thin. Competition may be tough, and new challenges await you at every turn.

There is much uncertainty right now, and we are all anxious to get Whatcom County back to normal. We urge you to remain hopeful, as everything we are learning points to widespread economic relief. As part of that relief, our team is here for you! While it will be some time before we can again invite you to our offices, we are pleased to continue to offer our free and confidential services online via Zoom meetings, phone calls and email correspondence. Please continue reaching out; we are committed to being here for all of you for as long as it takes.

Working with an SBDC adviser allows you to focus on what is most important to achieve your personal and business goals. They will help guide you through tough, strategic decisions to drive your business forward. You can trust your SBDC to get the most up-to-date guidance on program availability, recovery planning and one-on-one assistance.
With experienced, professional advisers and talented research associates, your SBDC can serve as your recovery Sherpa, guiding you to the summit of success. Please visit sbdc.wwu.edu to access resources specific to Whatcom County.

CJ Seitz is the director of WWU’s Small Business Development Center. She has more than 20 years of executive planning, administration, financial strategy and marketing in non-profit and private sectors.