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Downtown Olympia Business Community Shows Resilience and Innovation Amidst Challenges

One Thing That has Really Impressed City of Olympia Economic Development Director Mike Reid is the Resilience of Olympia’s Downtown Business Community

Almost six months into a public health crisis, much is still uncertain. When will things return to “normal,” and how will "normal" differ from pre-COVID-19 days? Small businesses have been hit hard, with many struggling to cover the basics like paying rent and keeping their lights on. But one thing that has impressed City of Olympia Economic Development Director Mike Reid is the resilience of Olympia’s downtown business community. “I’m really proud of how business owners have shown so much innovation and adaptation,” says Reid.

“There are so many positive stories to tell, and we’re lucky to have strengthened our relationship with the Olympia Downtown Alliance to help highlight the positive things happening downtown,” says Reid. The City of Olympia partnered with the Alliance to assist with funding for both the Promising Notes Concert Series and the Artists on Board project. Promising Notes was a collaboration between The City of Olympia, Octapas Cafe and the Olympia Downtown Alliance. Local musicians created short music videos of their work. The Alliance posted the videos on social media channels, including Instagram, YouTube and Facebook as well as 

The Olympia Artspace Alliance and the Olympia Downtown Alliance, in partnership with the City, also rolled out a project called "Artists on Board." This project provided artists a platform to beautify the boarded up exteriors of some downtown businesses. Additionally, a grant the ODA will administer will assist in improving some downtown .aesthetics. “We want downtown to be as welcoming as possible,” says Reid. “We’ve already been able to add three blocks of festival lighting downtown as well as add four additional seasonal staff members to assist with downtown improvement initiatives. August through October these employees will assist with tasks like pressure washing, cleaning and other projects to help with downtown upkeep.”

“We’ve been able to provide some small business assistance grants, and one thing I’m really excited about is the new concept of the “streetery,” an idea some downtown businesses with be trying,” says Reid. “A “streetery,” allows a business or restaurant to come out to the street area in front of their business and set up vendor space on the sidewalk, while still practicing safety and responsible social distancing. Soon we’ll be trying this out in front of 222 Market by putting picnic tables out in front of some businesses.”

“The city, as well as our downtown business community, rapidly deployed unique strategies and alternative ways of doing business while complying with the restrictions placed during COVID-19. The community has come together and come up with some innovative and creative solutions and we’ll continue to look for new ways to help and support downtown businesses during this time,” says Reid.

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