Near half of all business surveyed by the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism says they’re unsure whether their business will survive the impacts of the coronavirus.
The closing of many segments of the economy coupled with the governor’s stay-at-home order was predictably identified as the main issues for local businesses. That, Chamber President Brad Meier says has dramatically impacted small independent businesses in Owatonna.
“Uncertainty and stress – that’s the overall feeling,” said Brad Meier. “All of this is adding a lot of stress to an already stressful thing – running and owning your own business.”
A total of 70 business throughout the city took part in the survey. Meier said that a range of businesses responded. The largest sector of responding business were professional services — such as insurance and accounting — followed by retail. He added that there were four bars/restaurants, four manufacturers, seven real estate, five nonprofits and a handful of other businesses that participated in the survey as well.
According to the survey results, other impacts include the uncertainty of the future of the economy, inability to meet with customers face-to-face and interdependence between businesses that are open or closed.
“The pure uncertainty of the situation, coupled with a continued extension of the stay-at-home order has created enormous challenges for small business,” said Nathan Dotson, chair of the chamber board and member of the Owatonna City Council. Dotson is also the owner of Dotson Woodworking, of Owatonna.
In addition to the survey results, 68% of respondents from the Owatonna business community have applied for either the Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program through the federal government. As of May 1, 33% of those that applied have received those funds.
“The federal stimulus dollars are helpful, but what our businesses want is to reopen their stores,” said Dotson. “They are already making changes and can do it safely.”
Meier said survey results have helped the chamber know what directions to move in to help businesses both survive and prepare to reopen. He said that the Chamber Foundation is currently putting together a “Jump Start Owatonna” program that will help connect businesses with grant dollars and in-kind resources to help navigate the new way of running business.
“It’s about getting businesses the proper PPE, getting their facility ready, and other guidance that they may need as far as marketing or IT support,” Meier said. “We’re trying to basically create this resource hub.”
Meier said that the chamber will also continue to prioritize educating both businesses and the public on how to remain safe through the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a variety of resources that aid businesses during this time.