Business leaders report unprecedented measures, innovative ideas and a bottom-line hyper-focus as the novel coronavirus — COVID-19 — spoils the chaos on trading everything from one corner of the Valley of the Sun to another .
Arizona’s economy thrives in tourism, executives explain. The service industry — places such as hotels, restaurants and commercial spaces — is the number 1 engine of the state’s economic machine and with an almost stationary activity most companies don’t have much time.
While corporate executives admit that tough times are here to stay and that no real answers are found anywhere, a collection of surveys conducted by both the East Valley Chamber of Commerce Alliance and the Greater Phoenix Area Chamber of Commerce offers insights into the current state of affairs.
Together, the two organizations have adhesions covering the metropolitan area with around 700 companies participating in the survey efforts.
When COVID-19 emerged, chamber leaders began to seek understanding from its members.
“I think, first of all, that a number of small and large companies have responded and we have found that 60% of companies have not yet taken action in terms of wages and employees,” said Todd Sanders, president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Area Chamber of Commerce, on the first results of a company-level survey.
The Phoenix House, the week of March 16, sent out a commercial survey to assess the economic impact.
The survey produced 187 responses, of which 83% were companies with 100 employees or fewer and 68% of those surveyed said that COVID-19 is and will have a semi-dramatic-negative impact on operations. In the meantime, 30% have reported that it is already having a harmful effect.
“Companies are working to make sure they are working to be protective and safe and are also working to ensure that employees and employee families are safe,” Sanders said of the initial reactions to the pandemic.
“As you saw from the answers, 35% at the time of the survey were very worried about the loans. What we are hearing after SBA loans is that they are good, but they are able to get when these loans are available if approved. “
The companies interviewed by the Phoenix Chamber say that these elements are very important:
- Temporary cancellation of payroll taxes for March, April and May: 56% of respondents.
- Delaying the filing deadline: 43% of respondents.
- Reduction of unemployment requirements for laid-off or laid-off employees: 43% of respondents.
- Catastrophe loan for the SBA economic industry: 35% of respondents.
- Information on re-hiring and / or temporary placement for dismissed employees: 24% of respondents.
Sanders reports that everyday businesses are dealing with gloomy realities.
“What kind of bridging funding can we put in place to make sure that assets can go on until SBA loans become available?” churches.
“This will be a really important factor for many businesses out there. There are a number of cities and counties across the country trying to fund businesses to help them get over that bridge time period. I think these topics are being discussed at the level city and county “.
The negative impacts will be difficult to avoid, Sanders admits as the numbers show that 13% of respondents are anticipating layoffs and some more drastic measures.
The numbers show, in response to the fact that companies have had to lay off employees or cut wages:
- 60% of respondents reported no action;
- 13% of employees laid off;
- 6% of respondents suspended employee salaries; is
- 4% of respondents implemented wage cuts.
“We are looking to take employees who have been put on the run and give them the opportunity to find jobs in the food sector or somewhere in logistics,” he said. “Employees fired from school districts — have already done the fingerprint. We can take those certifications and temporarily put them in places to help them solve their job problem. “
Ms. Sanders says that what has been encouraging during times of economic uncertainty is community power.
“I will tell you, what has been important and moving by working in this direction are entrepreneurs who don’t just think about profits, but focus more on what they can do to help,” he said. “I think when the dust settles, nobody will have wished for this to happen. A crisis really reveals where your strengths and vulnerabilities are. I think that’s probably true of all companies. “
A collection of rooms offers economic insights
Mark Stanton, President and CEO of the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, says that the leaders of the Chamber of Commerce across the Valley are communicating with each other to help companies in need.
“Companies are looking for ways to navigate and find ways to stay open and maintain revenue,” he said. “In the end they are looking for ways to resist and it’s outlined in the study, even if we’re seeing it in real time — companies are trying to access cash.”
Stanton says entrepreneurs and community leaders are all-in when it comes to overcoming the national pandemic.
“They hope to get a shorter deadline for their employees and families. How can they reuse employee work? How can they rearrange their service models? “He asked for daily consultations.” There is a support base and we even hear it here in the chamber. We are seeing new members joining the chamber or registering with us again. “
— Mark Stanton
Of the more than 5,000 chamber members surveyed through EVCCA, 485 members provided detailed answers to numerous questions regarding general operations.
EVCCA comprises seven East Valley chambers of commerce within the communities of Carefree and Cave Creek, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, Scottsdale, the region of superstition and Tempe.
EVCCA officials reported that a community of respondents emerged:
- An immediate need for access to cash to keep business afloat and to cover staff expenses. Companies must simplify the SBA loan application and limiting restrictions has been identified as a priority.
- Employers care about the well-being of their employees and seek clarity on how to cope with new sickness, FMLA and payroll tax credits.
- Access to medical and sanitizing supplies is essential, especially for our hospitals. Many companies require access to these supplies to function, including meal preparation, delivery and implementation services.
Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce president Chris Clark says owners in the far East Valley are facing the storm today, but as the days go by, concerns increase, he says.
“Up to now, people have been holding on quite well, but are getting more nervous longer, of course,” he said.
“How do you plan? Is it a week long thing, a month long thing or more? This really changes the way small and large companies will approach it. There is a lot of concern. “
Clark says the fluid nature of the news surrounding the virus and the appropriate responses that vary from state to state make it difficult to predict future commercial operations.
“Really, it is also developing as we speak. This is one of the things that is so fluid: there is a lot of concern that has been expressed, for example, about the new requirements of the FMLA, “he said. “Scenarios, get that bundle of money from payroll taxes, but how can I resist to even make wages?”
— Chris Clark
Inside the EVCCA data there are some net realities including an example of a business that sees the cash flow go from $ 43,000 to just $ 89 in a week comparing the data from one year to the next.
“The immediate and today, what can we do now to support businesses now?” asked Mr. Stanton. “But we’re seeing companies thinking about the other side of this. The survey is an important reality test as the number of people participating tells us the level of concern in the community. “
“The other side of this”
For Cherí Valentino, vice president of the Scottsdale area chamber of commerce, all aspects of the business have changed and will change, he says.
“On the camera side, we are seeing from our members that they want the connectivity we provide and we are looking for ways to maintain it,” he said. “We are putting in place ways to do it — whether it’s webinars and looking at our business models and how well we can do it from the web, for example. All of our events, we don’t expect it to go away at all. We will continue to do them, but in the short term we are not. “
But when there is a will, there is a way, says Mrs. Valentino.
“I think webinars and virtual space are something new for our community and for our society as a whole,” he said. “I think a lot of the points I have to take from the survey can be positive. Looking at the results, as Mark said, we’re not seeing companies going through a crisis right now.”
Stanton says business will find a way to make it work.
“Tomorrow morning we have our first virtual group of leads — they’re looking for the room to host those things and continue to offer them that service,” he said. “If you can’t go to a breakfast meeting and can’t meet a friend for lunch, how nice we already have those mechanisms there to meet you virtually.”
While Clark admits that the Arizona hospitality sector – a cornerstone of the economy across the state – is being decimated, he reports that local owners are still pushing forward.
“I was impressed with the way some people I think indicated that the virus is real, but this arrest isn’t slowing them down,” he said. “They’re still saying they’ll come back.”