The top three business concerns for area employers during the COVID-19 Crisis include fears of a US or global recession, declining consumer confidence & spending, and impact of lost revenue on liquidity and financial stability, according to a survey of local businesses conducted April 8 – 15 by Greater Columbus Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  Sixteen local employers ranging in size from six employees to more than 1,000 responded and also expressed concerns for employee health and individual stress levels as companies and their team members navigate the changing dynamics brought on by the global pandemic.

“Executives were asked about their concerns, employment levels, whether or not they’ve applied for Federal assistance, and other questions designed to give us a real-time snapshot of the impact the virus is having on local operations,” said Jason Hester, president of Greater Columbus EDC.  “It’s vital to understand what’s most important to them and specifically how the pandemic is impacting our local economy as we work collaboratively with community and state-level partners to address their needs.”

The local EDC pledged confidentiality on all individual responses, and the aggregated results are being shared with local and even national policy makers.  To share nationally, Greater Columbus EDC used a survey that is part of an effort by local economic development offices in the U.S. which to date has gathered more than 3,500 responses around the nation.  The survey was developed by the makers of Synchronist, an economic development tool that Greater Columbus EDC utilizes as part of their ongoing business retention and expansion programs.

The April 8-15 local survey found:

  • Two-thirds (10 of 16) had contacted their bank about financing.
  • Three of 16 had applied for the federal Payroll Protection Program, with two having received approval and the third expecting support. Others did not qualify for the program, had not yet applied, or did not answer the question.
  • The most common requested source of help is for information on employer best practices, with two out of three seeking this support.
  • 10 of 16 employers expect to see a decrease in revenue, and one expecting a slight increase. Those facing a decline range from less than 10% (2 responses) to declines of more than 70% (4 employers).
  • Among 13 companies with continued operations, 2 had reduced headcount through terminations, 1 had furloughed employees, and 3 indicated they are seeking to grow headcount through hiring.
  • Three employers closed temporarily as a result of the crisis, with two doing so voluntarily and one required by the state’s “Stay at Home” order.

“Even though unemployment claims are skyrocketing, we were pleased to see that most of the employers who responded to our survey had not yet laid off workers and were still taking measures to keep employees on their payroll,” said Hester.  “However, if revenue significantly declines and shutdowns continue, we know that maintaining full payroll levels is not sustainable for long, hence employer concerns about a pending recession, reduced liquidity, etc.”

To help Columbus-based companies with fewer than 50 employees and receipts less than $2 million who have faced a decline in revenue due to COVID-19, the City of Columbus this week approved a new small business loan program called, “Columbus Invigorate.”  More information on that program is available at https://www.columbus.in.gov/columbus-invigorate/.

In the meantime, other employers will await expanded Federal program support, and Greater Columbus EDC indicates it will expand efforts to share best practices with area employers.


Supplemental Charts of Select Survey Results