A SURVEY OF businesses just conducted by Marquette’s Downtown Development Authority presents some concerning statistics.
No, you could call them alarming.
Question: If the COVID-19 business disruption continues, how long would it be before you’re in danger of closing permanently?
Answer: 27% say 1-2 months 41% say 3-5 months
Question: How much has your revenue changed since early March?
Answer: 89% say it’s dropped by 50% or more
Becky Salmon, the executive director of the DDA, knows the next several months will be a trying time for Marquette, especially with a less-than-robust tourist season coming up.
“We just wanted to get some quantifiable data out there, and get the word out about what’s facing us, ” Salmon says. “And then we’ll have to work together and come up with a plan.”
She’s forwarding the survey results to the DDA Board, city manager Mike Angeli and the City Commission.
A caveat here. Sixty-seven downtown businesses responded to the survey, out of the more than 400 who are part of Marquette’s “downtown.” Maybe those who didn’t respond are doing just fine, maybe some of them have just closed up shop and aren’t dealing with matters related to their business, or maybe some just didn’t get around to responding. We don’t know, but that doesn’t minimize what the survey is telling us.
Other noteworthy statistics:
392 employees have been laid off by the 67 businesses.
70% of the businesses say their employees can’t work from home
61% of the businesses say they have no online presence.
“That really surprised me,” says Salmon. “I really thought more of them did business online. And that’s important because businesses with an online component can adapt better with sales and service at a time like this.”
Third Street, home to dozens of prosperous, independently owned businesses, has been quiet in recent weeks.
The businesses have been looking for financial help but most haven’t gotten it so far. Thirty of them applied for MEDC grants, but only two were successful. Thirty-five asked for Economic Injury Disaster loans, but only three received them. And 44 applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans, but only 16 got them.
More help is needed because even if the state shutdown is eased in the next month or two, the social distancing requirements, the likely drop in tourism, the cancellation of summer events, and the continued overall anxiety will likely keep business revenues down. Way down.
“I’m confident we’ll make it through, though,” Salmon says. “I think the community will step up and support the local businesses more than ever.”
On the bright side, overall UP infection rates remain low, the statewide rates are coming down, and more restaurants here are cautiously reopening for takeout and are finding success. And oh yeah, you wanna order books from SnowBound? They’ll deliver them to your doorstep, free of charge. Games or puzzles from Taiga? Same thing, no charge.
Businesses are doing what they have to, to survive.
It’s up to us to support them, to ensure that they do survive.