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Survey takes local economic pulse

ADDISON COUNTY — The Addison County Recovery Team is going over the results of its survey of the local economy.
The online survey garnered an impressive 275 responses from a diverse array of area business sectors, according to Fred Kenney, executive director of the Addison County Economic Development Corp. Retail respondents topped the list at 13%, followed closely by construction and home services (11%) and food & beverage businesses (11%).
Of the 275 respondents, 97 (36%) indicated they’re temporarily closed (26% forced, and 9% voluntarily). The remaining 177 (64%) respondents remained open, and most (28%) were at full operating levels.
Survey results indicted 84% of respondents had experienced decreased revenues during the pandemic, with 111 (41%) seeing revenues drop between 76-100%.
Around 10 businesses reported experiencing no change in revenue and 15 (6%) actually experienced revenue surge.
Other key findings:
•  42% of respondents said they had to lay off staff, while 47% hadn’t done so.
•  Almost half (43%) of respondents had staff working remotely and about a third (27%) still had all staff working on site.
•  Almost half of the respondents that answered the question (234) had applied to various state and federal programs for aid in the form of grants or loans.
•  When asked about additional supports businesses need to reopen or ramp up to full operations, 81 (36%) stated that financing or additional capital were required, 35 (15%) said business planning assistance and 25 (11%) indicated workforce training or retraining.
The main themes from the answers to “Top Concerns Going Forward” were fairly evenly split between economic and health/safety concerns, according to survey results. The economic concerns ranged from the ability for the economy to bounce back generally, efforts to restore the local economy and the ability of each business to regain pre-COVID revenue levels. The concerns were related to length of shut down, speed of restoration of activities and confidence of consumers.
The health and safety concerns ranged from the availability and affordability of personal protective equipment, to acceptance of the public to new ways to conduct business.
After economic and health/safety concerns, the primary issues were the ability to resume all pre-COVID activities, consumer confidence and spending ability, general economic failures such as recession or inflation, and a resurgence of the virus causing a second shut down.
On the other hand, there were many responses about taking advantage of new business opportunities and new ways to conduct business.
The Addison County Recovery Team was formed last month to coordinate and collaborate during the COVID-19 response and work toward recovery and the post-COVID-19 economy. Members of this task force include Addison County Chamber of Commerce, Addison County Economic Development Corporation, Better Middlebury Partnership, Bristol CORE, Vergennes Partnership and Vermont Small Business Development Center.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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