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Survey: SWFL’s small businesses feeling major impact from pandemic

Florida Gulf Coast University surveyed Southwest Florida businesses in March to help determine the local impacts COVID-19 has had on the community.

About 950 executives in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties completed the survey, which allows company leaders to voice their concerns on the pandemic, and to track the progress the community makes through the coming months.

Winter in Florida is usually a time for businesses to boom, but a “closed” sign is the new reality – and now there are numbers to show it.

“The effects of the virus on the economy, at least among businesses, the answers are pretty uniform from Charlotte to Lee to Collier,” said Christopher Westley, dean of FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business.

He surveyed nearly a thousand businesses and found 91 percent of small businesses reported a decrease in demand.

“We’ve had to lay off the majority of our staff and it’s horrible,” said Warren Frye with Beef O’ Brady’s.

Nearly 30 percent of small businesses fear the impact will be permanent.

“Many of them are not going to come back online,” Westley said. “They’re going to remain closed. In the long run that’s how the market corrects.”

Businesses like the Green Cup Cafe in downtown Fort Myers fall into that harsh category.

“Trying to shift our service paradigm to just stay open, it would be extremely difficult for me,” said Karolina Vaickute, owner of the Green Cup Cafe.

FGCU will repeat the survey at the end of the month.

“The main difference that I think we are likely to see is going to be in the area of the larger businesses are going to start feeling some of the strain that they’ve been able to weather up until this point,” Westley said.

Nearly 70 percent of local small businesses said they laid off fewer than 20 percent of their employees.

To read the full FGCU report, click here. The FGCU Lutgert College of Business also has information and resources for small businesses here.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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