Approximately 45 businesspeople and community leaders gathered today at Indian Summer Golf & Country Club for Thurston County’s first major in-person gathering since the start of the pandemic.
The occasion was the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce’s regular monthly Forum, a luncheon at which members and guests gather to get reacquainted, hear a presentation on a business-related topic, hear announcements and possibly win a door prize. The group gathered in a room that can be set up in typical times to accommodate as many as 350 people.
The speaker at today’s Forum was Jennifer Dye, director of the Small Business Development Center and a marketing instructor at South Puget Sound Community College. Her presentation was titled, “It’s been a year – Now what?”
Not sugar-coating the news, Dye presented data (see above) that Thurston County has lost slightly more than a third of its local businesses in the period from February 1, 2020 through January 30, 2021. Small business revenue in the county declined by 29.1 percent, she reported. Employment was down an average of 20.8 percent during the 12 months that ended February 12, 2021.
It’s not all bad news: Consumer spending in the county was up by 22.7 percent, despite lockdowns, store and restaurant closures and high rates of unemployment.
Dye used the contrasting numbers to discuss how consumers’ needs and interests have changed since the start of the pandemic, and lead a brief discussion about how local businesses have modified their product and service offerings to reflect these changes.
She discussed Thurston Strong, the consortium formed by a dozen economic development organizations, including cities, tribal communities and chambers of commerce, to lead economic recovery efforts here, and described its eight-minute video, “Thurston Strong delivers for small businesses and non-profits,” they developed to demonstrate the results of their work.