Microbiz Case Study: Chelan

Historic Downtown Chelan Association: A Nimble Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Historic Downtown Chelan Association (HDCA) promotes and preserves downtown Chelan with an emphasis on microenterprises and small businesses. With a staff of one, HDCA boosts its capacity through volunteer support and partnerships with entities like the City of Chelan, the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, and the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority.

HDCA was fortunate to have significant capital—more than one year’s worth of operating budget—available in its savings account when the COVID-19 pandemic began. HDCA used this asset as leverage to create a business microloan program at the local bank and within two weeks of the pandemic’s onset, the microloan program was operational. The program provided a $5,000 loan to any member-business without any requirements or formal qualification. HDCA approved loans without any further approval by the bank, enabling 15 businesses to receive funding within less than one week of applying. HDCA’s nimbleness filled a funding gap before the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) had been established.

Throughout the early days of the pandemic, HDCA also hosted weekly virtual calls with the downtown business community to share updates. Each week, HDCA invited a subject matter expert to present on a new topic such as unemployment or online retail platforms. HDCA also serves as a liaison between the City and microenterprises and advocates on behalf of small businesses. For example, HDCA worked with the City during the COVID-19 pandemic to activate parking stalls for outdoor seating through a temporary code overlay.

Since the onset of the pandemic, all the businesses in downtown Chelan have remained in operation and four new businesses have opened.

Read the full case study in the Main Street & Microenterprise report.