As people navigate the uncertain path forward in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a new economic survey seeks to capture its ongoing impact to the business community.
The online study is an addendum to SBJ Publishing Inc.’s 2020 Economic Growth Survey, which was conducted Feb. 12-March 1. The new digital survey is planned to be distributed via email to Springfield Business Journal subscribers the week of April 6.
SBJ is again partnering with H2R Market Research to conduct and analyze the second survey, as the parties did last year when the growth survey debuted.
Another survey this year wasn’t planned, but COVID-19 changed that, said Springfield Business Journal Publisher Jennifer Jackson.
“Since there are changes happening on a daily basis, we expect this second survey to be a checkpoint in time,” she said, adding a third survey is also in the works for May.
“At the very least, we wanted to check in … and ask if current circumstances have changed their outlook on business for the year.”
Jackson said because COVID-19’s impact is so widespread, it didn’t make sense to use the first survey’s results from March alone.
The growth survey’s purpose is to garner company leaders’ insights into staffing, capital, office space and workforce trends, as well as measure and identify business trends. A central piece of the 2019 survey was the creation of the first local business confidence index.
Data from all three 2020 surveys will likely play a role in forums later this year, Jackson said. While Ozarks Technical Community College has agreed to host the summer forums, the logistics and dates are subject to change, given uncertainties due to coronavirus restrictions.
H2R President Jill Renner said in order to keep the data as fresh as possible, the turnaround time for participants to reply is just seven days. The organizers have a baseline target of 600 responses.
Results from the virus-related surveys should help determine what changes businesses are making, both short- and long-term, that could change the business landscape, she said.
“We need to, for lack of a better term, take the temperature of businesses and try to understand how they see the entire COVID-19 impacting their businesses going forward,” Renner said.
“Not just today but any kind of changes they foresee happening way into the future. Employers can then help people fill those needs.”
The timing of the initial growth survey this year was fortuitous for data gathering purposes, Renner said, as it was completed before the virus’ impact.
The first survey received 492 responses, which is over the 383 minimum needed to provide a 5% margin of error – the standard in the research industry, said H2R analyst Ashley Garoutte.
“We know what people were thinking right before and can compare those results,” Renner said of the new surveys.
Gary Rogers, owner of Springfield-based business brokerage firm The Kingsley Group, participated in the growth survey in 2019 and again this year. He has every intention of filling out the new survey, too.
COVID-19 has made such a significant impact on the stock market and business community, Rogers said, adding the $2 trillion federal stimulus package signed into law March 27 will provide some relief.
“But there’s going to be some long-term pain that some businesses won’t be able to recover from as fast as others,” he said.
Rogers said he believes the new survey will have high participation.
“There’s no way to predict what it’s going to look like,” he said of the survey results. “That’s what’s going to make it so valuable.”
The goal is for the second and third surveys to be almost identical in content, Jackson said, adding they are set to have 25-30 questions and take around 12 minutes to complete.
“They will be directly related to COVID-19 changes businesses are making in terms of work environment, the technologies they are investing in, the work schedules they’ve adopted, whether employee counts have changed or are anticipated to change,” she said, noting there’s also an intention to capture some data of how people were personally impacted.
Jackson said she’s writing a letter to accompany the second survey to encourage participation and explain the rationale.
“My hope is that people will take the time to respond, given the increased importance of gathering this information,” she said. “Because we’re in a time of volatility, taking measurements at these various points will allow us to see and know what we have ahead of us to fully recover.”
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