State launches SmartWA dashboard to help small businesses reopen safely

The new Smart WA online system includes a decision support tool that allows businesses to ask “what if” questions of the research data about customer preferences in the wake of COVID.

As Washington state businesses prepare for full reopening on June 30, many are looking for ways to reassure customers and clients that health and safety remains a top priority.

To help small business owners identify the safety protocols most likely to be important to customers, the Washington State Department of Commerce has launched a new SmartWA business decision support system and COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard and DSS was developed by Restart Partners and its partners ChoiceFlows and Tanjo.ai. The state Departments of Health and Labor & Industries also contributed to the development of the tool.

SmartWA uses numerous data sources and artificial intelligence to provide small businesses most impacted by the pandemic with real-time outlooks about public health, economic and community conditions by county and industry. The decision support system features an interactive simulator that provide industry-specific predictions about which safety protocols are most likely to increase customer traffic in specific sectors. These recommendations are based on Choiceflows’s current survey data of consumer preferences in Washington state. The tool is available in five languages and was designed in collaboration with minority-owned small business owners from throughout the state.

“We know business owners are committed to reopening safely, and they want their customers to feel confident about visiting in person again,” said Lisa Brown, director of the state Department of Commerce. “This simple tool can help a business owner understand which safety protocols are most important to their customers. We appreciate the work of our Safe Start partners to collaborate with diverse business owners and focus on the industries that have been hardest hit during COVID-19.”

“Even though we can allow 50% capacity, we operate at a lesser capacity because we don’t want to risk people’s lives,” said Claire Sumadiwirya, owner of the Bellden Café in Bellevue. “The dashboard gives reassurance that we can operate at higher capacity and it’s a good way to communicate to the team that they should feel safe coming to work and to provide the best hospitality.”

“The business decision support tool gives me information about how much traffic in my business category could increase if I adopt different strategies or combinations of strategies such as vaccinating my employees or continuing with visible cleanliness measures,” said Jordan Smith, owner of Cascadia Public House in Spokane.

“We are pleased to bring these decision tools to Washington state small businesses helping them meet the unique challenges they are facing post-pandemic,” said Sandra Archibald,  founding board member and senior research fellow of Restart Partners. “These tools all help level the playing field for small businesses while promoting a safe reopening for all.”

“We are particularly pleased these resources are designed to meet the needs of small minority and women owned businesses in Washington state,” said Lisa Goodman, also a founding board member and senior research fellow of Restart Partners. “We know certain business communities were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic so it was important that we tailor these tools to be useful for them.”

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