Seattle Business Leaders Aren't Being Pollyannaish About the Fallout From the Coronavirus Crisis, Survey Shows

Executives in the Puget Sound Area ‘have a notably bleak view of COVID-19’s impact on their businesses,’ the poll states
Updated: Wed, 04/08/2020 - 11:10

Labor-market information platform ThinkWhy surveyed 500 business leaders across a half dozen major metro areas from March 14 through March 19 ­­― only several days before Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order ― and found that executives in the Seattle area have the most negative view of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

The businesses polled ranged from companies with 21 employees to more than 3,000 and represent a cross section of industry sectors in six metros: San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Los Angeles and Seattle.

“Forty-one percent [of Seattle business leaders surveyed] say the coronavirus will have a negative impact on their business for years to come,” the ThinkWhy report states. “Survey respondents also have gloomy views about the virus’s adverse impact on the local labor market, rating the harm at 7.5 out of a possible 10, with 10 being worst. They’re also skeptical about the ability of the U.S. economy to quickly rebound from the crisis, rating chances of that at just 5.3 out of 10.”

Other key survey findings:

  • * Seattle business leaders expect to be most negatively impacted by “reduced time and attendance of employees” (53.3%), and “decreased foot or online traffic” (47%).

  • * 55.9% of the leaders say they plan to revise revenue expectations because of COVID-19, a surprisingly low response compared to that of business leaders in other metros. “Seattle leaders also rated “increased sales” as the outbreak’s top positive impact, perhaps because online retailers, like Amazon, are based in the area,” the ThinkWhy report notes.

  • * 55.9% of respondents say their company was prepared to handle the challenges posed by COVID-19.

    * 73.5% of business leaders surveyed say their companies are doing all they can to slow the spread of the virus while only 44.1% indicated that they believe the government is doing enough.

  • * 60% say their company’s communications during the crisis have been “good to very good,” while 17.6% gave poor marks to their company’s communications ― the worst mark across all metro areas surveyed. 

“This [communications] question is telling because it’s important for companies to communicate effectively with their employees and stakeholders, especially during a time of crisis,” the ThinkWhy report states.

The biggest negative impact cited by Seattle-area business leaders was the reduced ability to secure loans. The survey report states, however, that it’s too soon to predict how that outlook might change by the recently enacted $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package.

“The measure includes $350 billion in federally guaranteed loans and grants to small businesses, as well as a $500 billion lending program for mid-sized to large companies,” the ThinkWhy report states.

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