Seattle Focuses on Economic Recovery, Starting Locally
Amid what is foremost a public health and safety crisis, many government leaders are looking for ways to support economic resilience and avoid longer-term impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
In Seattle, Washington, city officials took early steps to provide for their local economy by launching the #SupportSeattleSmallBiz campaign. The goal of this campaign is to keep businesses open and keep the workforce supporting them employed. Helping Seattle businesses survive the pandemic required a location-based solution—connecting citizens with local businesses that are open.
"We're doing everything we can locally to support our small businesses during this unprecedented moment in history," said Mayor Jenny Durkan, City of Seattle. "We've identified millions of dollars to invest directly in our most vulnerable small businesses and are working with our partners across government and in the private sector to help many who are struggling."
Supporting the Community with GIS Maps and Apps
In an effort to provide Seattle restaurants, cafés, and breweries with a way to let it be known whether they are remaining open, the city's information technology department launched a mapping application built with geographic information system (GIS) technology. Business owners can use a simple survey form to populate the interactive online map with their information.
The solution includes a public-facing application that allows residents to enter their location or drop a pin on the map to find open restaurants near them. A Seattle resident can use the application to select a restaurant, view its phone number, get a link to the website, or receive directions to pick up their takeout order. The app also connects residents to third-party delivery services if the restaurant does not deliver.
"With many of our neighborhood restaurants still open, we can support our small businesses by ordering pickup or delivery during this time," Durkan said. "I'm grateful to our community partners who helped shape our map and make it a reality."
On the day the application was launched, the city had information on over 500 businesses. Two days later, the city had information on 300 more. Currently, the app has over 1,100 local businesses listed—and the number is climbing. By following this geographic approach, the city is maintaining an inventory of open businesses, ensuring that service workers and suppliers remain employed and residents are kept informed.
The city's GIS team, who built the application, was pleased and surprised by the positive response.
"We were shocked at the attention the campaign has received and at the number of views the map has received," said Stephen Beimborn, manager of departmental GIS analysts for the City of Seattle. "This is a testimony to how well-aligned our city government is with the local media, the business community, and Seattle residents on the importance of local businesses to the economy and the community, with the jobs they create and the vital services they provide."
Buying Local to Save a Job, a Business, a Family
In times of crisis, communities often become more aware of the importance of buying local. Efforts to support small business in Seattle are helping sustain the local economy and causing a chain reaction—employees keep their jobs; suppliers continue to deliver and support the supply chain; businesses are able to pay rent, taxes, and utility bills; and residents spend money to stimulate growth.
Seattle city government is able to promote the #SupportSeattleSmallBiz campaign and connect residents to businesses by using GIS technology to collect, manage, map, and share all relevant information in the context of location.
"Reading the emails from restaurant owners has been the most rewarding aspect of the work," Beimborn said. "As eager as they are to make sure their business is on the map, they never fail to thank us for our efforts. That's all the incentive any of us have needed."
Longer term, the city would like to expand the app to include restaurants countywide. In this way, Seattle leaders would be doing their part to promote economic sustainability on a larger scale.
In Support of Esri ArcGIS Users
As nonessential businesses shut down and workforces switch to working from home, local government response is helping to shape economic sustainability for communities. Of course, there is a need to recover nationally, but the effort starts locally.
To support an economic balance within their regions, local governments are intervening and developing programs with short- and long-term objectives in mind. This could range from simple business directories to incentive programs.
The story of Seattle, Washington, is just one example of how organizations are using GIS to respond to and operate more effectively during the COVID-19 crisis. This approach can be replicated in communities around the globe.
Esri is dedicated to helping the efforts of many organizations through software, technical support, and resources. Examples of Esri's support include the following:
- The Esri COVID-19 site connects organizations with insights, information, and updates.
- The COVID-19 GIS Hub provides a definitive resource for data, solutions, FAQs, and best practices to help organizations get started.
- The Esri Disaster Response Program (DRP) assists organizations with GIS software needs, technical support, services, and data. For immediate assistance, submit a Request for Assistance form. Requests are monitored 24/7.
As GIS technology continues to help organizations worldwide get through this crisis, Esri will gather best practices and share lessons learned from jurisdictions around the globe to provide a greater understanding and inspiration for COVID-19 response efforts.
We're doing everything we can locally to support our small businesses during this unprecedented moment in history. We've identified millions of dollars to invest directly in our most vulnerable small businesses and are working with our partners across government and in the private sector to help many who are struggling.