In an effort to best serve our membership and maintain our mission to lead our community, drive commerce in our region, and advance community and regional collaborations, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce conducted a membership survey between May 7 – 17, 2020.
The survey was completed by 177 individuals. 152 respondents are current Chamber members and 25 are not. 63% were completed by small businesses with 25 or fewer employees, 23% were businesses with 26-100 employees, and 14% had 100 or more employees.
90% of respondents have a physical location normally open to customers or clients, and of these, 47% closed their location due to local regulations in response to the coronavirus. For those which closed, the majority had since reopened at the time of surveying. In comments, many essential businesses noted that they remained open but were at limited capacity due to local orders or limited staffing. Several noted that they had closed to the public, but staff were working in the office. Some of those allowed to remain open noted that they chose to close their doors.
In regards to the reopening phases and guidelines by Public Health and Human Services and what the experience was in applying the guidelines, 30% indicated very good (no problems whatsoever); 49% indicated good (have worked through it or resolved questions); 13% indicated poor (having difficulty interpreting or navigating guidelines); and 8% indicated very poor (don’t know how to proceed and am lacking resolution).
Open comments provided additional insight into sentiments on the local orders in terms of restrictiveness, application between businesses in who was deemed essential or allowable activities, the communication process in rolling out, unclear timelines for which they are in place, and questions in how they should be applied in specific cases.
Asked how the Chamber can best serve businesses moving forward during this public health crisis, respondents were able to select any option reflecting their feelings. 68% indicated that the Chamber should continue collaborating with local government as a representative of business. 51% want education and information disbursement. 43% want the Chamber to advocate for greater business relief from local government. 36% want resources for adapting their business to thrive in the current climate.
Open comments about priorities for Chamber response varied widely including how collaboration with local government should represent the needs and ability to safely operate businesses, how relief from local government is defined (financial or loosening of restrictions), the importance of receiving relevant and factual information in making critical decisions and keeping employees informed, and the need for help to quickly adapt to survive for the duration of COVID-19 and to thrive in the new normal.