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State to fund region-wide promotional campaign in wake of I-5 bridge collapse
Governor Jay Inslee directed the state Department of Commerce Tuesday, May 28, to release $150,000 from its Economic Development Strategic Reserve Account to support local economies affected by the Skagit River bridge collapse on Interstate 5.
Funds from the strategic reserve account cannot be distributed directly to businesses but will be used to support marketing and promotion efforts.
"We know this bridge closure has already significantly impacted the surrounding economy and we're working to address that,” Inslee said. “We've seen how quickly this community has rallied together to help each other and brainstorm creative solutions. We now need to give the community the resources it needs to implement those solutions.”
The Department of Commerce is working with partners in Skagit, Whatcom, Island and San Juan counties. Together, the group will develop and launch a regional media and communications plan and possibly other services to inform the public that area businesses and attractions are open and easily accessible by several alternate routes and ferries.
Conversations are underway and Commerce will move quickly to contract with one local organization – most likely the Economic Development Association of Skagit County – on behalf of the other counties and groups such as local chambers of commerce and tourism organizations.
“People need to know that theses counties are open for business and that the bridge collapse need not interfere with vacation, business, or recreation plans. The detours are working efficiently, delays are minimal,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender “Spring is prime time for whale watching and other classic Washington sightseeing opportunities – it’s a great time to visit this corner of the state.”
As soon as the full impact of the bridge closure is understood, Inslee may also pursue a formal disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The Washington State Military Department, through its Emergency Management Division, is encouraging businesses to evaluate economic impacts and determine if they have sustained substantial losses caused by the fallen bridge.
Businesses should report economic injury information to county emergency management officials. The state’s EMD will review that data to confirm whether businesses will qualify for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
For the state to qualify for SBA EIDL assistance, a minimum of five businesses must demonstrate substantial economic injury. Businesses that suffered uninsured economic losses and are in need of SBA financial assistance not otherwise available through other means must fill out an EIDL form and return it to their local emergency management office. A copy of that form can be found here:
"We would like to thank the Governor for making these funds available,” Rob Fix, Executive Director Port of Bellingham, said of the strategic reserve account funds. “In the days ahead, we will be working closely with our partners in Skagit, Whatcom, Island, and San Juan counties putting these funds to work in order to ensure our regional economy remains vibrant and strong."
— Editor's note: information above was circulated as part of governor's office press release.