About 35% of Wisconsin businesses reported they will be forced to close if current conditions persist for more than three months, according to survey results released by Northwest Regional Planning Commission.
The survey was conducted by Visions Northwest, eight other regional organizations in the state, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to assess businesses' ability to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and state and federal aid efforts. From April 1-10, it yielded nearly 2,550 responses from companies in 63 of the state’s 72 counties.
Results also showed 8,795 jobs were lost in the earliest days of Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order, along with losses of $126 million in income, $95 million in inventory, $26.6 million in wages and productivity income and nearly $404 million in other impacts.
Fourteen businesses in Douglas County responded to the survey, reporting $47,000 in lost income during that period and $45,000 in other financial impacts.
Visions Northwest Chairman Kelly Klein said he believes the survey results reflect the concerns felt in northwest Wisconsin.
“We have seen first-hand that businesses are struggling with a wide variety of issues due to the pandemic and are uncertain what the future holds,” Klein said “Our regional businesses are going to need funding not only to get through, but also to help restart as we move forward.”
At the time of the survey, the businesses — ranging from small sole-proprietorships to large firms like Kobussen Buses and UW Health — were still trying to adapt to the changes implemented by the stay-at-home order. But the results don't paint the whole picture, as more than 40% of organizations that responded said they were not able to report specific impacts at the time. The findings indicate greater future impacts on businesses as the pandemic persists.
Because of that, Jeffrey Sachse, director of the UW-Oshkosh Center for Customized Research and Services, said he believes future surveys will give researchers a better idea of the pandemic's impact on businesses.
“These impacts are certain to rise when we revisit these companies in a month, two months and six months’ time. The assistance that these companies require, and the effects felt throughout the state’s economy are both unprecedented and continuous," he said.
Firms reported using a variety of approaches, including delaying payments and reducing inventories, to minimize the impact of the crisis.
“Responding firms suggested that their greatest immediate needs are access to greater liquidity in the form of low-interest loans, grants and access to customers,” Sachse said. “This closely mimics trends reflected in the national policy debate and recent surveys reported by the Federal Reserve Board and Small Business Administration.”
Businesses also reported seeing a sharp reduction in productivity as their employees shifted to working from home, with most reporting a 25-50% decrease.
The report “reinforces a lot of what I’m hearing when I talk with businesses and business leaders around the state,” said WEDC secretary and Chief Executive Officer Missy Hughes.
WEDC created a program called Small Business 20/20 to support small businesses impacted by the pandemic, Hughes said. The organization is also working to get federal disaster loans and provide additional guidance to businesses.
The survey is the first in a series that will track the economic impact of COVID-19. Responding companies will be surveyed again in May, June, July and for the foreseeable future, with results released during the third week of each month.
To respond to the initial survey or to be added to the survey group, visit uwo.sh/covid- 19-econ-disruption.