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Many SWFL businesses expect permanent adverse effects from pandemic, FGCU study shows 

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Christopher Westley, Ph.D.

Christopher Westley, Ph.D.

Although the majority of businesses in Southwest Florida have experienced temporary adverse effects because of the coronavirus pandemic, about a quarter of local businesses expect permanent damage, according to preliminary data from a local study conducted in late March by the Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University. 

More than 25 percent of small businesses in the region expect permanent adverse effects from the crisis, while 21 percent of businesses with 25 or more employees expect long-term economic consequences. On the flip side, nearly 3 percent of the owners of both large and small businesses in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties expect potential positive effects on their businesses, the study shows. 

Unfortunately, some local businesses reporting to be temporarily closed now because of the coronavirus effect may not actually reopen, says economist Christopher Westley, dean of the Lutgert College of Business at FGCU. 

“I think there will be a large number who are permanently closed,” he said. “We’ll have a better idea about that in a month or two.” 

The FGCU survey, which had more than 1,000 responses, included six questions related to customer demand, sales revenue, working from home and expectations about the coronavirus effect to establish a baseline for economic conditions now so that they can be tracked over time. The FGCU research team will ask the same six questions during the second half of each month to track how conditions change. 

 

Originally published March 31:

FGCU economic study: Small businesses hardest hit in Southwest Florida 

Concerning the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses have been the most affected in Southwest Florida, according to preliminary data from a local study conducted in late March by the Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University. 

“The effect on small business is pretty significant. They’re the ones that are really suffering. The data puts numbers to that more than anything,” says economist Christopher Westley, dean of the Lutgert College of Business at FGCU. 

More than 60 percent of the nearly 950 regional businesses responding report that their sales revenue has declined by more than 50 percent because of coronavirus. The loss is even higher for businesses with less than 25 employees, of which 66.7 percent reported a loss of revenue. 

The top industries reporting at least a 50 percent decline in customer demand include hotels and lodging (92%); entertainment, recreation and other services (88%); restaurants (86%); retail trade (74%); and real estate, rental and leasing (64%). 

Survey links were sent to the 18 chambers of commerce in the region and industry organizations representing hospitality and tourism, real estate, construction, finance and other business networks. They shared the survey last week with their memberships. “It was a good statistical sample of Southwest Florida given the number of responses from Charlotte, Lee and Collier, and also the industries that responded,” Westley says. 

Additional survey results will be reported this week in Gulfshore Business Daily. 

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