Photos from The Herald’s top business stories in 2020. (Herald staff and submitted)

Photos from The Herald’s top business stories in 2020. (Herald staff and submitted)

Coronavirus commerce: The baddest business stories of 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic touched every aspect of the economy in the U.S., state and Snohomish County.

The year was a challenge for everyone, no less so in the world of commerce. Here’s what happened in business in 2020:

On Jan. 21, 2020, the the first case of the “Wuhan Coronavirus” was reported in the United States — a Snohomish County man in his 30s who was hospitalized at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett.

No one knew it at the time, but the Coronavirus and COVID-19, the illness it causes, would become both the biggest news story and the biggest business story of the year.

With the Olympic mountains in the background, Boeing’s 777X lifts off from Paine Field on its first flight, to Boeing Field in Seattle, on Jan. 25 in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

With the Olympic mountains in the background, Boeing’s 777X lifts off from Paine Field on its first flight, to Boeing Field in Seattle, on Jan. 25 in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

A few days later, on Jan. 25, Boeing’s newest passenger airplane, the 777X, took flight for the first time, capping a decade of development. Engulfed by the 737 Max crisis, which involved two crashes that killed 346 people and the grounding of the flawed jet, local Boeing workers paused to celebrate the sleek new plane’s three-hour-and-51-minute inaugural flight.

Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports, takes a call March 2 inside the Paine Field terminal. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports, takes a call March 2 inside the Paine Field terminal. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

On March 4, the new privately owned passenger terminal at Paine Field celebrated its one-year anniversary. More than a million passengers passed through the grand-hotel-like terminal during its first year in operation. That same day, Propeller Airports, the terminal’s owner and operator, estimated that passenger volume was down about 5% because of coronavirus concerns.

Within a few days, the coronavirus was the news. By mid-March many offices closed. Workers able to work remotely set up home offices in spare rooms or at kitchen tables.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee delivers a statewide TV address on March 23. (TVW)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee delivers a statewide TV address on March 23. (TVW)

On March 23, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered non-essential businesses and construction projects to temporarily shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the governor’s proclamation was accompanied by a 14-page list of workers whose jobs were considered “essential,” including those in health care, aerospace and defense. Washington health officials report 2,221 coronavirus cases and 110 deaths, including 519 cases and 11 fatalities in Snohomish County.

Cars drive near Boeing’s manufacturing facility in Everett on March 23 north of Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Cars drive near Boeing’s manufacturing facility in Everett on March 23 north of Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

That same day, Boeing announced that it would temporarily suspend operations at Puget Sound-area factories for two weeks. The temporary shutdown followed the death of a flight-line inspector at the Everett campus due to COVID-19. He became the first known Boeing employee to succumb to the coronavirus. In the weeks leading up to the decision, workers criticized the company’s handling of cleaning, disinfecting and social distancing. The temporary shutdown was extended, and Boeing’s factories didn’t begin to reopen until April 20.

In May, Snohomish County officials began deliberating how to allocate $143.5 million, the county’s share of the $2 trillion federal relief package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. Aerospace and aviation businesses, along with small businesses, nonprofits and social service providers across the county, would eventually benefit from the grants.

Resurfacing begins at the Paine Field passenger terminal in July. (Propeller Airports)

Resurfacing begins at the Paine Field passenger terminal in July. (Propeller Airports)

Paine Field was back in the news on May 15, when Propeller Airports, the terminal’s owner and operator — with federal regulatory approval — temporarily suspended airline service for 10 weeks to speed ramp repairs. The number of daily flights had already fallen from 24 takeoffs and 24 landings to one or two a day due to the pandemic, so the interruption was minimal. Globally, airline passenger traffic declined by up to 90%. In the United States, passenger numbers reached a nadir on April 14, when 87,534 passengers passed through airport security checkpoints across the country, down from 2.2 million the same day in 2019. Airline service at Paine Field resumed Aug. 1 with limited service. By fall, the number of daily flights from Everett increased to about seven per day.

Smoke rises from the Waterfront Apartments on Marine View Drive on July 16 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Smoke rises from the Waterfront Apartments on Marine View Drive on July 16 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

On Friday, July 17, a massive fire destroyed the south portion of the Waterfront Apartments that were under construction at the Port of Everett. Authorities sifted through the rubble and eventually determined the fire was not caused by criminal activity. Developers promised to rebuild. The north building, which was mostly untouched by the fire, is to open this year with 135 units. The port itself sallied forth with plans to bolster revenue despite an aerospace cargo decline.

Boeing workers walk to and from their cars during a shift change on Oct. 1 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Boeing workers walk to and from their cars during a shift change on Oct. 1 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

After widespread speculation, Boeing announced Oct. 1 that production of the 787 airplane was to be consolidated at the company’s 787 assembly plant in South Carolina. The 787 production line at the massive Everett factory is to close this spring. The leave-taking had Gov. Jay Inslee shaking his fist and promising to review $2.2 billion worth of tax breaks the Chicago-based company had taken advantage of since the Dreamliner launched.

Claire Vondemkempt (left) and Jami Sollid check out customers at Just James Boutique in Stanwood on Nov. 28. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Claire Vondemkempt (left) and Jami Sollid check out customers at Just James Boutique in Stanwood on Nov. 28. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

On Dec. 2, The Daily Herald reported that the number of people who had started new businesses was up sharply, locally and across the U.S. In the midst of the pandemic, new businesses sprang up from Bothell and Edmonds to Stanwood. One study suggested that during economic downturns, a “go for it and what have you got to lose” attitude prevails.

Dr. George Diaz is vaccinated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Dec. 18. (Providence)

Dr. George Diaz is vaccinated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Dec. 18. (Providence)

In December, two COVID-19 vaccines were approved and distribution began. Staff at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett received some of the first doses in Snohomish County.

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