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Survey Examines Issues Including Technology and the Impact of the Pandemic
CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH – To better understand the challenges and technology issues facing businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, and a host of economic development organizations, including Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Urban League of Greater Cleveland, JumpStart, and the Hispanic Business Center commissioned The Center for Community Solutions, a nonprofit policy and research think tank, to design and analyze the results of an online small business survey. Questions focused on technology use and needs, business support, and the impact of COVID-19.
More than 600 businesses representing a variety of industries operating in every corner of Cuyahoga County responded to the survey.
According to the survey, conducted during September and October 2020, nearly three-quarters of Cuyahoga County businesses reported that their sales or revenue had decreased during the pandemic, or they expected it to. Many businesses indicated that technology was important for the growth of their business, however, more than 70 percent of businesses indicated that cost prevents them from using technology to expand their business at least some of the time.
“Small businesses are the life blood of Cuyahoga County’s economy. The pandemic severely stressed many of our small business owners, especially in the personal service, food and beverage, and hospitality sectors,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “To help our small businesses survive and recover, Cuyahoga County provides advice, technical assistance, and financial support through a network of small business support organizations. We are now accepting proposals to provide at least $3 million in additional funding to our small business support partners.”
As the COVID crisis recedes, targeted support to help businesses leverage technology tools could enable our regional economy to recover more quickly.
“Businesses told us that emergency relief funding, such as Cuyahoga County’s Stabilization Grants, enabled them to stay afloat in the depths of the pandemic,” said Kandis Williams, Vice President of Economic Opportunity, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. “As we emerge, greater access to financial and technical assistance resources and access to affordable, high-quality internet services and technology supports will be critical to small business recovery efforts.”
“This information allows us to go beyond anecdote to have a clearer picture of what businesses across Cuyahoga County need to thrive. The results of the survey should be used to target assistance to help speed economic recovery,” stated Emily Campbell, author of the report and Associate Director and Williamson Family Fellow for Applied Research at The Center for Community Solutions.
Key findings form the survey include:
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 40 percent of Cuyahoga County businesses said they expected the return to normal operations to be difficult.
- The two types of assistance that would be most helpful to struggling businesses in the short term appear to be financial support and help connecting with customers, especially via online methods such as social media.
- Sixty percent of businesses in Cuyahoga County said that technology was “very important” to the growth of their business, yet more than 70 percent said that cost prevents them from using technology to expand their business at least some of the time.
- Businesses facing technology cost barriers were more likely to be small businesses with either less than $250,000 in gross revenue or sole proprietorships and be woman-owned and/or minority-owned.
- Close to two-thirds of Cuyahoga County businesses engaged in online business transactions and nearly half accept online payments from customers. Yet internet network service quality was the most common technology challenge identified by Cuyahoga County businesses, even though nearly all businesses reported using high-speed internet. Slow speeds, lost connections, and weak Wi-Fi networks were frequently mentioned in response to open-ended questions. Improving the internet infrastructure in Cuyahoga County would help businesses.
- More than half of businesses indicated that marketing assistance, including social media, would be helpful in the short term and many indicated a strong desire to improve employees’ skills or add employees to help with social media and online marketing.
- The report also contains analysis comparing businesses in the City of Cleveland to those in the suburbs, examining racial disparities, and an in-depth look at struggling businesses.
To read the full report, visit: https://www.communitysolutions.com/research/cuyahoga-county-business-survey-results/.