As Oregon counties reopen during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, city staff in Tualatin are working on an economic recovery plan that aims to stabilize suffering local businesses now and support them as they move forward into an uncertain future.
Jonathan Taylor, Tualatin’s economic development manager, provided an overview of the plan during a May 26 City Council meeting. He outlined four phases of recovery: response, stabilization, preservation and enhancement.
“I’m framing this as a disaster,” he said. “We have to.”
The response phase took place early on, when businesses began to experience the effects of the pandemic and resulting restrictions put in place by Gov. Kate Brown. During that time, Tualatin took steps like creating a business resource webpage and establishing an economic stabilization fund for local businesses.
Currently, the city is in the early part of a 6-month stabilization phase intended to shore up existing businesses that are at risk of disruption and closure. Staff proposals for this phase include:
• Establishing a business recovery center where local businesses would have easy access to a host of resources
• Providing short-term financing to businesses, such as grants, low- or no-interest loans or subsidizing interest on loans
• Acting as a sourcing option for personal protective equipment, such as masks, that are required for reopening
Washington County commissioners intend to provide cities with $500,000 to fund business recovery centers. Taylor told the council, and councilors during the May 26 meeting directed staff to put together more detailed plans for short-term business funding and personal protective equipment sourcing.
The preservation phase would focus on “preparing for the economic health of our residents, businesses and workers,” according to Taylor’s presentation. Plans include partnering with organizations to provide small business workshops and completing an update to the city’s economic development plan in light of current economic conditions.
“We always were going to update our economic strategic plan,” Taylor said. “But now we have to have a focus on recovery and what does that look like both for resiliency and also for helping our business community as quickly and as safely and as soundly as possible?”
Proposals for the enhancement phase – the “long-term game,” Taylor said – include the city helping businesses secure financing via a partnership with a community development finance institution and resiliency planning that would involve continuous evaluation and adjustment of economic recovery efforts.
“We have to be nimble because something unforeseen can happen,” he said. “The guiding star is helping people get back to work, keeping our neighbors employed and in business – but also being great community partners … to be a good steward of our resources.”
Council members expressed support for Taylor’s plan.
“This is a great outline for economic recovery,” Councilor Valerie Pratt said.
Still, Councilor Robert Kellogg cautioned staff to “be very restrained in what we do” as the city moves forward with a recovery plan, saying that the city, by itself, can’t save every business and the worst may be yet to come.
“A politician without an economic background would say there’s all this pent up consumer demand and once we reopen, it’s going to be a roaring economy again – some may even say ‘huge,’ if that resonates with anybody,” he said. “An economist without a political objective may say things may be OK but when the [Paycheck Protection Program] money runs out and there are gaps and we get into the fall and, perhaps, there’s a resurgence, we’re only at the end of the beginning.”