Survey: Illinois small businesses desperate to open
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By Zeta Cross | For The Center Square|Chicago.- Small business owners are eager to reopen and many are afraid they won’t survive the pandemic, according to a recent survey by the Illinois Federation of Independent Business.“There are some desperate folks out there,” said Mark Grant, director of the Illinois chapter of the federation.The survey asked members to see how they are faring in the COVID-19 shutdown. The vast majority of the members are business owners with 10 to 20 employees.The big takeaway from the survey is small business owners in Illinois are worried about how they can survive if the governor won’t let them open their doors and get back to work.
“Many of them got federal assistance and they are grateful for that,” Grant said. “But the shutdown is taking a lot longer than people had anticipated. They are pretty desperate to get their businesses back open as soon as possible.”
In Bloomington, Doug Nord employs 11 people at Nord’s Outdoor Power Corporation. His store sells and services small tractors, mowers, chain saws, hedge cutters, outdoor grills and other things. Springtime is the big money-making season of the year at Nord’s.
Nord is fortunate. His business was deemed “essential” because he provides and services equipment that is used by local municipalities. Nord has had to cut back his hours and services but he has been able to keep doing business.
PPP funds from the federal government have helped. Thanks to a good relationship with his accounting firm and his local bank, Nord received Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) funds. Even so, his revenues are down by 40% from last year.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Nord’s showroom is now blocked off to customers. Repair work is limited to breakdowns and emergency repairs. Customers now have to stand outside while employees go back and forth in the store to help them get what they need.
The employees count on Nord for their paychecks and Nord is determined not to let them down.
Grant said small business owners like Nord understand health and safety guidelines and will do whatever they need to do to keep their customers and employees safe. His members are anxious for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to lift the statewide lockdown before their businesses fail and they have to close up permanently.
They are also concerned that the current climate favors big box stores.
“The playing field isn’t put down fairly. We feel like the small guys are being really harmed by the policy that is in place,” Grant said. “Large box stores are open and selling all sorts of stuff: hardware, groceries, even surfboards. Our members, who are their competitors – only really, really small – can’t open.”
Businesses can do a limited amount of curbside business, but many found it difficult and offered little help financially, Grant said.
“We think that the smaller operations – the mom-and-pop stores if you will – can take care of the health and well being of their customers as well as the big box stores can.” (The Center Square-Photo AP)