A considerable amount of research is being done to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting local businesses and what could be done to address the situation.

On July 28, the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) released the second report on the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses in the counties.  From July 8 to July 15, 279 entrepreneurs across the region responded to the survey.  However, only 21 per cent of the business owners responded.

In July, 42 per cent of respondents described their situation as difficult compared to 62 per cent in May.  In July, 34 per cent of respondents said that their business is expanding or growing compared to only 13 per cent in May.  Nineteen per cent said that the pandemic has not impacted their business, which was unchanged since May.

Respondents in the construction sector described their situation as conducive to adaptation and growth but respondents in the manufacturing, retail, and arts sectors, described their situation as “critical.”

The UCPR report states that 25 per cent of the respondents are offering new services such as online sales to adapt to the changed environment and that 87 per cent of respondents intend to keep offering them once the pandemic is over.

The survey identified that 63 per cent of respondents have accessed some form of government assistance to aid the operations of their business or compensation for their employees.

The UCPR report can be read at: http://en.prescott-russell.on.ca/UserFiles/Servers/Server_2375121/File/2020/business/status-evolution-businesses-report-covid-19.pdf.pdf .

Meanwhile, the federally funded Prescott-Russell Community Development Corporation (PRCDC) is conducting a Business Resiliency Study to identify how businesses can adapt, change, and thrive going forward.

PRCDC Executive Director John Candie said that the purpose of the project is to “bolster growth by strengthening the resiliency of the local economy.”  The agency has hired consulting firm MDB Insight at a cost of $35,000 to do research in the local business community so that priorities, opportunities, and strategies can be identified for economic recovery and resiliency.

Do surveys and studies matter to business owners?  Greg Lydiate owns Trophy Hill Promotions near Vankleek Hill, and his business has been affected considerably by the pandemic due to the cancellation of sports events and festivals.  The relative stability of the construction industry and demand for social distancing signage currently accounts for most of his customers.

“There’s not really much anyone can do for my type of business,” Lydiate said.  He is waiting to see if school and university sports will return, which may increase demand for promotional and award products.

Lydiate does not think that governments need to keep analyzing the situation and should “just proceed with common sense.”

Diane Cadieux, who owns M and M Pet Grooming in Hawkesbury said that she has been able to operate her business without outside support, but does appreciate the government programs that assisted her 10 employees when they could not work.

Cadieux said the best way to help local businesses going forward is for area residents to shop and use services in their communities.