Survey Data reveals decline in customers and cash
(Regional) — Results from a business impact survey issued to businesses located in North Central Massachusetts highlight the continued impacts to the local business community due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This new survey was conducted by the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the MassHire North Central Workforce Board, the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission, NewVue Communities and many of the cities and towns in North Central Massachusetts.
Nearly 250 responses were received, representing businesses from all twenty-seven cities and towns located in North Central Massachusetts. Respondents reflected the top industries in the region including health care, manufacturing, retail, food and beverages, financial services, education and agriculture among others.
Nearly 64% of the businesses and organizations reported losses when compared to 2019, with nearly 25% reporting losses of 50% or more. Nearly 54% reported that they expect it will be more than six months before their operations return to a normal level. Twenty-five percent of respondents estimated they could stay operational on current cash flow and reserves for six months or less. Forty-three percent of the businesses responded that they had difficulty getting employees to return to work citing health and safety concerns, child care and adult care as the top reasons. Some businesses noted falling behind on rent and other bills, while the vast majority reported increased costs due to additional sanitation or shifting operations online.
Over 50% of the respondents indicated that they were completely open, while 46% indicated that they were only partially open in a limited way and the remainder were still closed due to the pandemic. Of those closed, several cited they were closed for good while others reported that they were unsure if they would be able to reopen.
Financial programs to mitigate layoffs such as the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was the top response when asked what businesses were using to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by reduction in expenses and use of personal savings. Communications, marketing, and social media to reach their customers was the most requested resource when respondents were asked what resources,
beyond financial assistance, would be most helpful. For the respondents who had applied for PPP to support their business/organization, over 50% were approved for the full amount, and expected to be fully refunded.
“Our businesses have been working hard to operate safely, but the results show that many are still struggling from the economic impacts brought on by the pandemic” said Roy Nascimento, President & CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. “This survey data will be very helpful to our efforts to help support our businesses and communities as they continue to navigate the pandemic.”
“Thank you to all of the business and community members who have responded to the Chamber’s survey” said Jeff Roberge, Executive Director of the MassHire North Central Workforce Investment Board “The feedback you have provided is vital to our collective economic and workforce development strategy development and our unwavering commitment to driving economic prosperity in the region.”
“We’re very impressed by the strong response this survey has garnered from businesses across the region,” said Glenn Eaton, Executive Director of The Montachusett Regional Planning Commission. “The information from this survey will be critical as we work closely with our partners to identify the tools and policies that will help to restore the growth and prosperity Montachusett’s economy enjoyed prior to the pandemic.”
“Thank you to all of the small businesses that responded to the survey’ said Marc Dohan, Executive Director of New Vue Communities “This information will help us better understand the challenges faced by small businesses during the pandemic so that we can help create a dynamic economy in North Central Massachusetts.”
This survey was conducted online between October 20, 2020 and November 11, 2020 and was a follow-up to an initial survey conducted by the Chamber in March during the early days of the pandemic. The goal of the survey was to collect some fresh data and dive much deeper into the continuing impact of the pandemic to local businesses. Although the survey results included large businesses, the vast majority of respondents would be considered small businesses by federal standards with less than 500 employees and gross revenues less than $10 million per year. More specifically, approximately 75% reported less than 20 full time employees and 64% reporting gross income of less than $1 million. The majority of the businesses that responded were also primarily established, existing businesses in the community with an average of 29 years of operations.