August 4, 2021
Business and Community Updates
Port Secures $2 Million Broadband Grant
Port of Columbia staff, along with private partner Columbia iConnect, made a presentation to the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) on Thursday, July 14 in Olympia and left with a $2 million award! Funds will be used to construct a fiber network throughout the entire City of Dayton as well as adjacent areas in the county, allowing 1,287 businesses and households access to affordable, reliable highspeed internet.

The Port will not be providing internet service to customers. The system will be what’s called an open access network, meaning any interested internet service provider that is willing to invest in equipment can offer fiber internet service to the premises by leasing strands of the Port’s fiber infrastructure. Basically, the Port builds the “road,” and the private sector “drives” on it to deliver service to customers.

The Port provided information and a partnership invitation to all 5 existing service providers prior to applying for funds, and received a response from 4 of them. We now have signed contingency agreements with 3 companies – Columbia iConnect, PocketiNet, and Emerge by Inland Cellular – to lease fiber from the Port and deliver internet service to customers. We are grateful for their willingness to join us in this public/private partnership.

The Port of Garfield recently completed the same type of fiber infrastructure project in Pomeroy, and customers there are receiving 1 gigabyte of service for $70 per month! 50% of the premises in their project area have already chosen to use this new service offered by private companies.

Acceptance of the $2 million grant is contingent upon the community providing $500,000 in matching funds. The Port applied for and received $20,000 from the Sherwood Trust, $15,000 from the Warren Community Fund, and $13,500 from the Dayton Columbia County Fund to use as matching funds, and has pledged $20,000 from their 2021 budget for the project as well. Columbia County and the City of Dayton will be asked to provide the remainder of the required funds. The local funds required are a small investment that can benefit thousands of residents in our community. While some will view this as a waste of taxpayer dollars, we view this as successfully pulling $2 million of the hard-earned tax dollars we sent to the federal government back to our community for the benefit of our businesses and citizens and for the future sustainability of our town.

Background information and more on the project can be found on the Port’s website at https://www.portofcolumbia.org/economic-development/broadband/
View Auction Items Online Now for Evening at the Depot
The Dayton Historic Depot Society is happy to be holding this year's Evening at the Depot benefit auction on the beautiful courtyard once again. The event is this Saturday, August 7th starting at 6 pm. With $35 entry per person, the event includes live music, food, local wine and beer, lemonade, and a commemorative glass as well as both silent and live auctions.

The silent auction is open for bidding right now, with final bids being placed in person at the event. Both silent and live auction items can be viewed here.

If the weather gurus are correct, Saturday temperatures should be blissfully cooler and winds will have moved the smoke out of the valley.

Tickets may be purchase online here, or you can call or visit Shellie at the Depot and she'll take care of securing tickets for you. 509-382-2026

The Depot recognizes that the recent spike in COVID numbers is concerning, but if we all respect the individual space of others and refrain from too much hugging and handshaking, the outdoor event can be safely held.
Small Business Start-Up Grants & Flex Fund
Using non-taxpayer dollars received through a grant from Innovia, a private foundation, the Port of Columbia is offering micro-grants to start-up businesses once again. Grants not to exceed $5,000 will be awarded to qualifying businesses upon review and recommendation by a local committee. Click here to read the list of qualifications and find the application form. Applications are due August 31.

The Small Business Administration is offering a Small Business Flex Fund - a simple, low interest and flexible loan for Washington's smallest businesses and nonprofits that were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They can borrow up to $150,000 and the money can be spent flexibly.
Unemployment Rate Falls Again
The June unemployment rate came in at 4.6% for Columbia County. This is below the state rate of 5.2% and is within the range of what is considered full employment. Businesses report having a very hard time finding workers, and an unemployment rate this low means fewer people in the labor pool are available to work. At this month's economic development meeting, Columbia Pulp reported that they are still struggling to fill the last 20 or so positions at the plant as they resume full operations.
COVID-19 Spike
As mentioned above, we are experiencing a spike in COVID cases in Columbia County. We hit a high of 27 cases yesterday. As a comparison, our previous high was 20 in November. Public Health reports that the Delta Variant is present and children are included in the community members affected. There are no changes in restrictions for the public entering businesses, but Public Health is asking everyone to be careful, and the CDC does recommend mask wearing when indoors in the presence of others. Public Health has a variety of signs available if needed and are still providing vaccinations at their office. Call 509-382-2181 to sign up.