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First COVID-19 economic impact survey results released

By Staff | Apr 10, 2020

Small businesses are suffering the most due to COVID-19, according to an initial survey conducted to understand the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Southwest Florida.

The COVID-19 Economic Impact Survey was designed to allow company executives to voice concerns about the impact of the pandemic on their business. The 22-question Internet survey was sent to various chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and visitor and convention bureaus scattered across Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties on March 23, along with the request that they distribute the survey to their contact list. It also was distributed by Southwest Florida Business Today.

By March 28, 947 executives had completed the survey.

Among the findings:

– 61 percent of respondents reported that their sales revenue has declined by more than 50 percent because of COVID-19. The loss is even higher for businesses with less than 25 employees.

– 59 percent of business respondents said they believed the effects of COVID-19 would be temporary and not permanent.

– 65 percent of respondents said they have laid off less than 20 percent of their employees.

– 21 percent of the small firms (fewer than 25 employees) laid off more than 80 percent of their employees compared to 17 percent of the large firms.

– 60 percent of large firms had developed a disaster plan to deal with the coronavirus compared to just 32 percent of the small firms.

The full business study can be downloaded from the Regional Economic Research Institute’s Website at www.fgcu.edu/cob/reri/studies/coronavirus_economic_impact_survey_report.pdf.

“We now have a baseline to work from as we closed the end of March,” Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli said. “Data such as this will help the commission make informed decisions related to our business community as we move ahead in the coming months.”

The report was produced for the Lee County Economic Development Office, Horizon Council and Horizon Foundation and by Florida Gulf Coast University’s Regional Economic Research Institute (RERI).

The report represents the first part of a multi-part project to estimate the economic impact of the virus on the economy of Southwest Florida. The project originated through a request from the Lee County EDO, on the behalf of it and the Horizon Council, to conduct a broad study of the region at a time when businesses were shuttering and many area residents were voluntarily quarantining themselves in response to threats posed by the spread of COVID-19 in Southwest Florida.

Follow-up surveys will be conducted around the last weeks of April, May and June, and possibly through the end of 2020, to track changes in the economic baseline established in late March, about the time of the beginning of the coronavirus’ adverse social and economic effects in Southwest Florida.

FGCU economist Amir Neto and Collier County-based economist Joseph Burke joined the RERI to develop a three-part plan for the study. The first part of the plan established an initial survey of area businesses in order to create baseline economic conditions. The second part will require follow-up surveys to track how the baseline changes over the months that follow. The third part utilizes some of the information from the surveys to conduct a more in-depth economic impact analysis that will apply either computable general equilibrium or standard input-output analysis.

“In Southwest Florida, the coronavirus is also an anti-small-business virus. Its effect on small business is pretty significant,” economist Christopher Westley, director of the RERI and dean of the Lutgert College of Business at FGCU, said. “They were less prepared to weather an event like this. The data puts numbers to that more than anything.”