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Friday, June 11, 2021

Marion County COVID-19 business survey results show promising future

It came as no surprise but 87 percent of survey respondents reported recently that demand in their businesses had declined during the COVID-19 crisis.

The 199 respondents were mostly owners of small businesses like restaurants, construction companies, healthcare providers and manufacturing. A little more than half of them also reported that customer demand had declined more than 50 percent, according to Kevin Sheilley, president and CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership. Sheilley presented the findings to both the Ocala City Council and the Marion County Commission last week.

But the survey also found that more than 80 percent of the respondents said the impact of COVID-19 would not have any “permanent adverse effects” on their businesses. It also revealed that the vast majority of companies – 67 percent – had laid off or reduced work hours for less than 20 percent of their employees.

“This is a great snapshot of how businesses responded to the pandemic,” Sheilley said. “And while there was certainly plenty of disruption in Ocala, the resiliency of our local businesses will be on full display in the months to come.”

The CEP, College of Central Florida and the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau worked together on the COVID-19 Business Impact Survey, which was distributed by the CEP from April 13-23. The survey was designed to allow business executives to voice their concerns about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on their business. Of the respondents, 85 percent were owners, CEOs or key decision-makers.

The inspiration for the survey came from Florida Gulf Coast University’s work with its local chamber of commerce organizations in the southwest Florida region. Abraham Matthews, Central Florida assistant professor of Business, Technology and Career and Technical Education, created the survey with the help of Dr. Christopher Wesley, the lead researcher on the Florida Gulf Coast University project. The Tourist Development Council was responsible for bringing the schools together to share the expertise that subsequently allowed the survey to be expedited and deployed in the Ocala/Marion County area.

The full results of the survey can be found at OcalaCEP.com/cep-news. The Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County conducted a similar survey aimed at measuring the impact on the nonprofit community. The results of that survey can be found at https://www.ocalafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Survey-Report.pdf. A follow-up survey involving the same group of community business partners will be conducted in six months, according to Sheilley.