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Study finds downtown businesses more resilient, gain local support during pandemic

Washington Main Street Program
Communities highlighted in blue have a designated Main Street Program, and recovered slightly better than communities that do not have them.

A new study that examines economic recovery found that businesses in Washington’s downtown districts that also had a downtown business association, recovered better than those that do not.

Nearly all Washington State businesses saw a large drop in revenue in 2020 when pandemic shutdown hit. International and domestic tourism also stopped, leaving many communities without their normal base of customers.

A new study from the Washington Main Street Program, which is under the Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, says more locals supported their downtown businesses last year than before the pandemic.

Breanne Durham, Washington Main Street Director, says that’s because of a community-wide effort in places, such as Colville and Colfax, to support local business owners.

Durham says the study found main street business associations were able to provide advice, and sometimes cash support, such as in Colville. She says they were also able to speak directly to their community about what member businesses were facing.

“These are your neighbors, you know these people, the presence of these small businesses makes our communities stronger, and we're in this crisis moment where we really need the local customer base to step up, and they did,” she said.

In 2020 about half of spending in Main Street communities was local. In 2021, that fell to about 43%. In 2019, about 26% of the spending was local.