Spokane Journal of Business

Survey launched by chambers, others shows some businesses are tentative about finances

Regional impact survey is gauging sentiments in current conditions

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In a new, continuing survey of Spokane-area business owners and operators, 45% say they’re “tentative” about their ability to withstand the economic impact of the current coronavirus pandemic effectively.

Tentative is described in the survey as, “While our organization has a plan, a long-term disruption could be problematic.”

The Regional Business Impact Survey was started by Greater Spokane Incorporated, the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Spokane Valley chamber, Downtown Spokane Partnership, and Visit Spokane. 

Greater Spokane Incorporated serves as the combined chamber of commerce and economic development agency for Spokane.

Businesses first received the survey on March 15, a few days before Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all bars and restaurants closed to dine-in services and shuttered all schools for at least a month—and 10 days before Inslee’s more stringent Stay Home, Stay Heathy order went into effect. 

The survey is continuing, with GSI publishing some results daily. When the Journal went to press, 66 businesses had responded to the survey.

The survey results will be used by the business groups to explore needs and ways to identify resources to help area businesses.

In an anonymous comment about feeling tentative, one respondent said “We are completely closed because of the state order and to keep community healthy. There is no revenue coming in, and we are dipping into savings in order to pay our employees. We will have to lay them off if we go much longer.”

Another writes, “Laid off six employees, including myself.” That respondent also indicated four part-time workers are expected to be laid off next week.

A little more than 15% say they’re under financial duress and almost 14% say they’re worried for their business.

“We’ve moved our operations entirely virtual, which has slowed things down considerably. The biggest impact, though, is clients pausing or outright cancelling work,” says a respondent.

Despite those responses, the survey’s results weren’t entirely bleak.

Just over 18% of businesses expressed being confident about withstanding the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Confident is described as: “Our organization has a solid plan in place.”

Writes one survey respondent, “All employees occasionally worked from home prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, so all were set up to do that fairly easily. Since 100% of our clients are not in Spokane anyway, it hasn’t had much impact on our work.”

The survey also reveals some of the generosity on display throughout the community.

“We are trying to figure out how to help support our part-time employees right now. All education events have been canceled. We have an angel donor who primarily has funded the education help at West Valley Outdoor Learning Center (West Valley School District). Our employee has helped staff events there.”

The survey shows businesses with between one to 50 full- and part-time employees make up 70% of the first 66 respondents. 

Only one, however, was from the hospitality industry while two were from food services, according to the survey.

With 13 business categories for respondents to identify with, 12 businesses categorized themselves as professional services. 

Six were in the education field, and five were in the arts-entertainment-recreation category.

Of the initial survey respondents, 27 businesses, or 41%, identify in the category of “other,” making it the largest category.

Just over a third of initial respondents say they need assistance finding or connecting to local, state, and federal resources.

Kevin Blocker
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