Ohio’s small businesses are being massively impacted by the coronavirus. Under the Stay at Home Order issued on March 22 by the governor, our state is seeing an unprecedented shutdown that is affecting all Ohioans. Under this advice from state and federal officials, people are staying in unless they absolutely have to leave the house, and that’s really taking a toll on sales. An order to stay at home is a fine balancing act that local, state, and federal officials are wrestling with. How do we, first and foremost, protect the health and safety of our citizens and yet, how do we keep from doing such damage to small businesses that they can’t recover?
Many small businesses need to stay open as they are providing essential services or are a part of the necessary supply chain to other critically needed businesses. For example, a small pallet company needs to function so that important items such as cleaning supplies, food, and water can continue to be delivered. Or, like electricians and plumbers who need to be able to respond to homes, hospitals, and the like.
On Monday, the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, released survey results showing 76% of small businesses say they are being impacted in some way by the response to COVID-19. Fifty-four percent report weaker sales, and 23% say they are having trouble getting the supplies they need to operate. And while 20% percent say they haven’t been affected yet by the coronavirus, most of those believe it will affect them eventually if the outbreak spreads in their immediate areas.
The impact the virus is having on small businesses in Ohio is very concerning to me. Small business is the economic engine of Ohio’s economy, creating nearly two out of every three new jobs. The U.S. Small Business Administration figures show nearly one million small businesses in Ohio account for about 99.6% of all employers in the state and employ almost half of the entire state’s work force.
For every $100 spent by consumers at locally owned businesses, $68 stays in the local economy, compared to only $43 if spent at a national chain. Their employees live in the local community, and entrepreneurs give back to those same communities, sponsoring the little league teams, events, and charities.
Owning a small business is personal: 64% of small business owners start with $10,000 or less, and 69% of small businesses start in the owner’s home. As the business grows, and additional employees come on board, they become like an extended part of the owner’s family. Small business owners know the names of their employees and the members of their employees’ families.
This is a challenging time for Ohio’s small businesses, but they are, where allowed, delivering goods and services to meet their customers’ needs as safely as they can. They are showing a true determination to get through this, and everyone can help. To keep local economies strong, it is imperative everyone continues shopping local and small during this crisis.
A few simple ways to lessen the impact the coronavirus is taking on small business owners and employees include:
• Order something to eat. Grocery stores might be sold out of certain items, but restaurants, are still pretty well stocked. And while we might not be able to sit down for a meal, many eateries are still making deliveries or are set up to provide carryout.
• Tip workers a little extra, if you can. Food servers and delivery drivers depend on tips, and with business taking a hit, they’re not making as much money as they normally do in our economy.
• Support those small businesses that are still providing essential services such as plumbers, electricians, and HVAC companies.
• Shop online. You might not be able to go shopping, but lots of local stores have their websites and will let you order by phone or online.
•Buy gift cards and certificates to local businesses. Order them now online or by phone now to help them get by and use them later.
Small businesses are doing their best to get through this without cutting jobs or closing their doors. As fellow Ohioans, we can do our part and help diminish the impact the coronavirus is having on our local economies by supporting the family-run businesses supporting our communities each and every year. By their very nature, small business owners are resilient and enterprising, and therefore I remain very confident they will lead the way to our recovery.
Roger Geiger is vice president and executive director for the National Federation of Independent Business for Ohio.