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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.