UWO gets final 2020 results in business economic impact survey

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 5:16 PM CST
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FOX VALLEY, Wis. (WBAY) - Full 2020 results are now in for UW-Oshkosh’s business economic impact survey. The results from December show a particular trend.

“This is the most tangible example that we found of local communities coming out to support those businesses,” said Jeff Sachse, Interim Director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services.

CCRS found that shop local efforts, like Appleton Downtown’s 920 campaign, boosted business across the state during the holiday shopping season

“Retailers and those other organizations put together more compelling packages of experiences as well as product that really loosened those purse strings,” said Sachse.

“Social media has been a big force in our community,” said Jason White, CEO and President of the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation (GOEDC).

He has noticed a similar trend within the community, with shop local campaigns promoted through Facebook.

But the New Year is also bringing some newfound positivity.

“Our businesses have more confidence and I think they also see the light at the end of the tunnel, too, now that the vaccine is starting to roll out,” said White.

White credits not only consumer support, but many of the programs they and their community partners brought forth to help local businesses stay afloat.

“It’s been tremendous. I think we realized that an economic development organization is important when you want to grow your community, but it’s even more important when you’re trying to hold your community together,” said White.

Sachse says more than 60 percent of respondents across the state believe under current conditions they could remain in business for at least ten months. That’s up 20 percent from when the surveys first started in early 2020.

“I think a lot of businesses are realizing the impact of the pandemic wasn’t necessarily as bad as they thought it would be, and so they’re operating from a better, stronger position now,” said Sachse.

The December survey did find a $1.2 million inventory loss overall, which Sachse says is on par with numbers they’ve been seeing. As well as income losses of $609,416.

There were, however, wage and productivity gains of $155,760.

“What it points to is they’re continuing to do more with less,” said Sasche.

One of the biggest strains throughout 2020 was the extra costs related to the pandemic, like investing in PPE products or in new programs like delivery.

But Sasche believes businesses are starting to adapt on that front as well.

“There will be an ongoing cost to that, but they’re pivoting in a way that they know they can make that business sustainable because it’s assuring that public sense of safety,” said Sachse.

There have been other lessons learned over 2020 that may come in handy as the pandemic continues.

White believes that, should another federal stimulus program come around, more small businesses are prepared to navigate that funding process.

“Those organizations or businesses that are looking at round two, the federal government didn’t have to move as quickly as they did in round one,” said White. “So they got a chance to put more thought into this, about what worked during phase one and how they can improve for phase two.”

Since businesses seem to be gaining confidence, Sasche says it’s allowing some to think long-term again, assessing their banking relationships and investments to prepare for any future disruptions.

“Those are the types of things that I think businesses are now thinking about because they can see a light at the end of this tunnel,” said Sasche.

UWO and its partners will continue conducting to statewide, monthly economic impact survey for the foreseeable future.

See full survey results HERE.

The GOEDC also recently released a strategic plan that lays out some objectives for 2021. Find a link to that plan HERE.

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