Chamber survey finds businesses struggling

Thirty-five of the 74 businesses that responded to a recent Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce survey said they had not laid off any employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

But two had laid off more than 50 and five had laid off between 25 and 50.

Candance Castlen Brake, chamber president, said, “We found that our survey responses were in line with what the Federal Reserve concluded from their survey — that leisure, hospitality and retail were sectors that have been the hardest hit.”

She said, “Other sectors have been more stable, such as construction and manufacturing. But no one has been unscathed. All but around 5% reported a loss in income.”

The survey found that 36.5% of the companies reported a loss of income of 60% or more.

Brake said, “Our small business community is a resilient group of people. They are adapting and innovating. They are supporting one another. Our workforce is stepping up to the challenge and making the global corporations here productive.”

She said, “We are in a position to get through this. And when we do get on the other side, we will be poised to show the world why living here is not just doable, it is preferable.”

The survey found that 55.4% of the businesses have received a Paycheck Protection Program small business loan.

Many others received other assistance.

But 35.14% have received no help and 2.7% said they didn’t need any.

“The Paycheck Protection Program has been a major help for businesses,” Brake said. “A large majority of businesses have been able to access the PPP.”

Asked to list their greatest concerns, 58.1% said “not being able to generate money for operations,” 48.7% said “getting inventory/supplies next month,” 47.3% said, “customers not coming back.”

There were several other concerns, including 27% who were concerned that their business might have to close.

Asked if their business was in danger of closing if reopening is delayed, 40.5% said “no.”

But 13.5% said “yes” and 31% said they weren’t sure.

One responder was waiting to open a new business downtown.

The survey found that 71.4% of businesses need access to personal protective equipment for their employees.

Nearly half worried that their employees wouldn’t feel safe in returning to work.

“What we have seen as one of the largest concern is operating within parameters that will adhere to guidelines and provide a safe environment for customers as well as employees,” Brake said.

“Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been a major concern,” she said. “But hearing that from our members has given us the opportunity to connect our businesses selling them with businesses needing them. We have a complete list of chamber members on our website with a detail of what PPE each provides.”

Brake said the information from the survey “will assist us in being able to craft responses to help our local businesses as they navigate these next few months. Our role will be to connect them with resources, to walk through Healthy at Work Guidelines — both through training like our webinar with OH and the Health Department and one and one discussions with individual members.”

She said, “We are firm in our resolve to do whatever it takes to get through this and come on the other side with as few business losses as possible.”

  • By Keith Lawrence Messenger Inquirer