Surveys says most willing to wait till safe

By Patsy Nicosia

Times Journal, May 6, 2020


With its third and likely it’s last survey in the books, SEEC is now turning its attention to where we all want to be:

Back in business—creatively and maybe even better than we were before.

With that in mind, SEEC will be putting together a COVID19 Schoharie County Business Recovery Task Force that could start meeting as soon as tomorrow.

SEEC’s third survey of local businesses drew responses from more than 100 participants, who answered questions about whether they’d applied for federal COVID-19 relief and whether they’d been successful and if they’d taken advantage of any other grants. (See sidebar.)


Loans and grants, marketing and sales, and help navigating reopening requirements top the list of things businesses said they need to get back to normal, said SEEC’s Executive Director Julie Pacatte; about a third said they need help getting gear like face masks.


But most interesting, Ms. Pacatte said, is the number of respondents who support a more nuanced reopening rather than just throwing open the doors.


In answer to the question “Should Schoharie County Businesses Open on May 16?” 26 out of 95 businesses—27 percent—answered “Yes, all county businesses should reopen as soon as possible.


Fifteen—16 percent—said “No, it’s unclear whether…the virus…will be properly managed.”


More than half—57 percent or 54 respondents, said the county should partially reopen, based on science or the type of business rather than geography


“That’s really interesting information,” Ms. Pacatte said. “Businesses want to open but they want to be smart about it too.”


Equally interesting—and something SEEC can mine going forward—is the different ways businesses have adapted to New York on PAUSE.


Restaurants offering takeout, curbside pickup and home delivery, are the most visible ones, but real estate agents have turned to virtual home tours, and car dealers to virtual showrooms, while other businesses are working together, bundling, for example, wine, baked goods, and flowers, just in time for Mother’s Day.


When asked whether they’d continue those changes moving forward, 29 percent said yes—that they’d added value to their business—and 39 percent said they were planning to implement even more changes.


It’s that kind of thinking and collaboration that will be critical as everyone—SEEC included—moves into the next phase: Recovery.


“Business retention and expansion was always an important part of SEEC’s mission,” Ms. Pacatte said.


“It was sort of put on the back burner with everything…but now’s the time to pick it up again. It’s always been part of SEEC’s job to encourage businesses to be creative and ahead of the curve. Now that’s even more important.”


Especially in light of one of the more sobering take-aways from the survey: 37 or 32 percent of the 114 businesses responding said they’ve had to remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.


SEEC’s survey ran from April 29-May 2.


Of the 114 businesses responding, 70 percent came from the three largest villages, Cobleskill, Schoharie, and Middleburgh.

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