Survey: 35 percent of businesses at risk of closing

Posted on Apr 22, 2020 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive
Jessica Thiel
Posted by of Insight Publications

Thirty-five percent of Wisconsin businesses responding to a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh statewide survey will be forced to close if current conditions persist for more than three months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, which yielded nearly 2,550 responses from companies in 63 of the state’s 72 counties, covers the period April 1-10, said Jeffrey Sachse, director of the UW-Oshkosh Center for Customized Research and Services.

Results also showed 8,795 jobs were lost in the earliest days of Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order, along with losses of $95 million in inventory, $126 million in income, $26.6 million in lost wages and productivity income, and nearly $404 million in other impacts.

“The conditions reported here represent companies’ efforts to adapt to changing conditions,” Sachse said. “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.”

UW-Oshkosh is partnering on the survey project with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., New North Inc. and eight additional Regional Leadership Council organizations to assess COVID-19 recovery ability and state and federal aid efforts. The Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association are also involved.

At the time of the first 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 in the Safer at Home order and in response to COVID-19.

In addition, the results were understated, as more than 40 percent of responding firms indicated not being able to report specific impacts at the time. The findings only point to greater effects as the worldwide health crisis persists, Sachse said. Firms reported using a variety of approaches, including delaying payments and reducing inventories, as means of minimizing 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. This closely mimics trends reflected in the national policy debate and recent surveys reported by the Federal Reserve Board and Small Business Administration,” Sachse said.

Firms reported seeing a sharp reduction in productivity due to a shift to working from home, with most reporting a 25 to 50 percent decrease. This also tracks with national trends and reflects the difficulty many traditional firms face in adapting to the rapidly changing conditions, Sachse said.

The survey is the first in a series that will track the economic impact of COVID-19. Responding companies will be surveyed again during the months of May, June and July and for the foreseeable future, with results released during the third week of each month.

Companies are invited to continue to respond to the initial survey at http://uwo.sh/covid-19-econ-disruption and be added to the survey group.