Apr 22, 2020

35% of WI Businesses Surveyed Felt They Could Not Be Viable After Three Months of Current Circumstances

The Madison Region Economic Partnership and key strategic partners announce statewide COVID-19 business impact survey results.

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

The survey was authored by MadREP in collaboration with its eight county partners and the State’s other eight regional economic development organizations. UW-Oshkosh administered the survey and the results will be shared with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) for the purposes of informing its COVID-19 response.

The survey yielded responses from approximately 1.3% of all businesses in the state. Results also showed that among the businesses that responded to the survey 8,795 jobs were lost in the earliest days of Wisconsin’s safer-at-home order, along with losses of $126 million in income, $95 million in inventory, $26.6 million in lost wages and productivity and $404 million in other impacts.

MadREP President Paul Jadin stressed the dire circumstances for Wisconsin businesses. “These data suggest there is an immediate need for relief measures such as low-interest loans and grant funding,” he said. “Businesses need financial support along with increased access to customers if they hope to survive this shutdown period.”

“The conditions reported here represent companies’ efforts to adapt to changing conditions,” said Jeffrey Sachse, director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS). “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.”

WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said the report “reinforces a lot of what I’m hearing when I talk with businesses and business leaders around the state.
“Small businesses are being hit especially hard by the pandemic. WEDC has taken initial steps by creating the Small Business 20/20 assistance and unlocking federal disaster loans. Our Wisconsin Ready effort will provide additional guidance and resources as we begin our state’s recovery efforts.”

At the time of this 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 indicate greater future impacts on businesses as the worldwide health crisis persists.

Firms reported using a variety of approaches, including delaying payments and reducing inventories, as means of minimizing the impact of the crisis. “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 and income due to a shift to working from home, with most reporting a 25-50 percent decrease.

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 first months of May, June, 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 and be added to the survey group.

In addition, CCRS has released an interactive dashboard detailing survey responses along with advice and insights from University faculty.

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Jessica Reilly