I have often said that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and that could not be truer in Central Washington’s rural communities. The owners and employees of Main Street businesses are integral to the well-being of our communities, and the support for small businesses I have witnessed during my travels throughout our district is inspiring.
We are in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, which has affected nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Unfortunately, our small and local businesses – from restaurants and clothing retailers to hardware stores and hair salons – have been hit hard, and many are struggling to survive.
I have participated in several Main Street Tours over the past few years in towns like Ritzville, Prosser, and Zillah. These tours are an opportunity for me to visit the smaller rural communities of Central Washington, meet with local business owners and community leaders, and hear firsthand about the challenges they face and what I can do to help.
I recently traveled to Grant and Franklin Counties, where I participated in Main Street Tours of Quincy and Connell, two communities that have demonstrated great resilience and strength throughout these difficult times.
In Quincy, we visited the site of the Woodinville Whiskey Distillery Co., which aims to open in December. This new distillery will not only add jobs to the local economy, but it will highlight the contributions of local agriculture by making bourbon with rye and corn produced by Quincy farmers. This is just one example of job creation in the face of the economic challenges of a pandemic.
Despite these challenges, Central Washington’s communities are growing, and Quincy High School is working to help students meet the needs of existing and emerging job markets in our region. Quincy High, which focuses on preparing students for the workforce with strong programs from agriculture to STEM education, recently completed a $100 million expansion to accommodate for increasing populations.
In Connell, I was greeted by a variety of local business owners who opened their doors to me and shared their experiences with state regulations and lockdowns. Each and every one of them was optimistic for a brighter future.
Restaurants like Pizza Station are surviving the pandemic through curbside pickup and by establishing a delivery service. Another local pizza joint, Papa Ray’s, has relied on family members pitching in to keep the business afloat. Both restaurants expressed gratitude toward the community of Connell for supporting them when they needed it most.
I visited Imagination Station, Connell’s only licensed childcare facility, where staff took voluntary pay cuts in order to continue providing services to children and families; Connell’s Small Mall, where local vendors have gathered to sell their goods for decades; and the Old Brick Store, a collectibles store with a rich local history. It was clear to me at all of our stops on the Main Street Tour that the people of Connell truly exhibit the value of community we cherish in Central Washington.
If you ever wondered if the American Dream is alive and well, I encourage you to look toward Main Street. The small business owners, employees, educators, and families that inhabit our local cities and towns truly care about improving their communities and contributing to the greater good. I have and will continue to work to ensure that each and every Central Washingtonian can pursue the opportunities that make America great, and it is an honor to represent our Main Street small businesses in Congress.