The local business environment has continued to take a turn for the worst in the weeks since stay-at-home orders were issued, said Victoria Economic Development Corporation president Dale Fowler after receiving the results of the most recent economic survey of Victoria and other Golden Crescent counties.

“I have some concern about the small business impact this shows,” Fowler said of the results. “Some of our larger industries are continuing to function, (but) it’s all of our small businesses that make the infrastructure for our large industries to function.”

Key findings in the survey, conducted over the week of April 13-17, included:

  • One-third of local businesses are closed.
  • Open businesses are operating at 65% capacity on average, compared to 80% two weeks earlier.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in layoffs by 21% of businesses and terminations by 7%.
  • 6% of businesses have hired more workers.
  • For employees temporarily not reporting for work, about 60% are being paid.
  • The typical affected business has experienced a revenue loss of 50%, and it expects to remain open for 12 more weeks before failure.
  • Half of affected business owners have applied for the Paycheck Protection Program loan.
  • 14% of affected respondents weren’t aware of the Paycheck Protection Program loan.
  • One in five business owners anticipate a permanent reduction in their workforce by an average of 40% over the next three to six months.

The results reflect responses from 927 respondents across the Coastal Bend and Golden Crescent regions, 13% of whom were from the Victoria area. They were compiled by Jim Lee of the South Texas Economic Development Center at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The results will help local EDCs make recommendations to their local governments about how to help small businesses, said Ian Vasey, president and CEO of the Corpus Christi Economic Development Corporation. The Corpus Christi EDC coordinated the survey in conjunction with a consortium of local economic development organizations and chambers of commerce across South Texas.

Already, Vasey said sharing results from the survey’s first iteration with local leaders has been instrumental in the creation of a loan program to help people affected by the economic impact of COVID-19 in Corpus Christi.

“It takes some of the hyperbole and some of the myth out of it,” Vasey said.

A first survey, conducted over the week of March 23-27, meant to measure the early economic toll of the pandemic. Vasey said results from the more recent survey show the partial economic shutdown continuing to deeply effect a number of sectors.

But, in some sectors, he said the full effect of COVID-19 won’t be apparent until later on.

Vasey pointed to the construction sector as an example. “Jobs are continuing to be finished out. But decisions for projects that would start in the fall, those are the ones that may be delayed, pushed off or canceled altogether.”

Although the role of an EDC focuses on the creation of primary jobs, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing and scientific research and development, Fowler said the Victoria EDC recognizes the importance of smaller businesses that help provide the quality of place communities need for primary employers to flourish.

“Nothing that we can do for these small businesses is going to help them more than bring them customers,” he said. “It’s important to work in tandem with primary job creators.”

Morgan O'Hanlon is the business and agriculture reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6328, or on Twitter @mcohanlon.

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