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President's Message

October 2020

From the Business Perspective Newsletter

Economy – and business recovery - is the top issue

You’ve probably noticed we’re surveying more frequently; I promise it’s not to clutter your Inbox with more email. We need to know what you think; how you’re doing. Your opinions shape the Chamber’s policies and how we respond to the ongoing pandemic.

In late August you told us about the impact of Covid-19 on your business. Regional chambers joined us in our survey because we wanted the results to reflect what’s happening in Johnson County. Not surprisingly, we learned that County-wide, 46% of you are less optimistic about the health of your business than you were before the pandemic hit, with 42% about the same. The good news is that 75% of respondents reported that they are fully open (most or all employees in the office or business) or open with restrictions (employees in the office or business with some functions limited). Seventeen percent are fully open but working remotely and only 2% are temporarily closed. You also told us what would be most helpful to your business would be a cash grant.

The results of our survey and what you tell us every day are validated in the newly released METLIFE/U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index. They reported 53% of small businesses reported good health in August, statistically unchanged from July and March. What is important is that perceptions of business health are dependent upon business sector. Professional services are most likely to report good health (62%) while the retail sector is least likely at 37%, which is an eight-point decline from July. There was some significant movement in various sectors such as the 18-point increase for the service sector from July to August and an 18-point decrease in reported perception of health for manufacturing small businesses.

What does this mean, beyond the obvious concerns for these individual businesses who are our friends and neighbors?

METLIFE reports that most (78%) of small business owners categorized the economy as “average” or “poor” in August. Local economic outlooks are relatively unchanged since April, with 36% of those businesses perceiving the local economy to be in poor health.  More than three in five (62%) of small business owners say they are more interested in this election compared to the previous presidential election. By region, interest is highest in the Midwest.

That’s a good thing. IF it translates into votes. METLIFE’s survey indicates that 57% of small business owners said the economy is the first or second most important issue for them in considering which presidential candidate to vote for.

It’s my hope that every voter understands that EACH race on the ballot impacts your life and our economy. Elections can be brutal but layering an election over the pandemic debate has been particularly so. Civil discourse has been largely forgotten, turning into vitriolic volleys rather than respectful communication to provide or exchange information. We’ve become almost immune to the barbs and sneers on social media, shouts from angry crowds and venomous political postcards and commercials seeking to “inform” our views. It’s no wonder that while some are energized by this many, many more simply disengage.

While I occasionally escape the madness with HGTV or great book, it’s critical to find trusted sources of information so you can make informed decisions. Your presidential vote is important, but so is every other vote down the ballot as state and local governments determine how you live, and how your business functions every day. Our chamber works with the other chambers in the Johnson County to provide candidate profiles, interviews and forums on business issues on  Share this non-partisan resource with others and make sure they vote. Shape our economy and quality of life by choosing elected officials who represent what you and your business need to succeed. And watch your Inbox for information about a cash grant program coming soon from Johnson County’s CARES Act funds we advocated for based on your needs you told us about in August.


Continue Reading the Oct. 2020 Newsletter

Tracey Osborne Oltjen

written by

Tracey Osborne Oltjen, CCE, IOM

President & CEO