By Mary Jo Coulehan
Special to The SUN
The Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of our business community to try and assess the economic picture of our community during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in April. During this time, many businesses were furloughing employees, transitioning to work at home, applying for much-needed financial assistance and much more. Following are some of the results of the survey.
A total of 127 businesses responded to the survey. While many more businesses could have answered the survey, it appears that a good cross-section of businesses completed the questionnaire.
Professional services made up the largest number of responding businesses at 16 percent. Lodging facilities came in second at 15 percent, and restaurants, bars and food establishments came in third at 14 percent. Other significant categories responding were recreation/sports and nonprofit organizations, both at 9 percent. Construction, health care and wellness/beauty also had a good showing of businesses responding. Twenty-two percent of the remaining respondents included businesses such as retail, self-employed, work at home, automotive and one-type businesses.
Of the businesses responding, 40 percent have shut their doors for the time being due either to the governor’s order or lack of business. Another 39 percent of businesses have a downturn of business of 50-90 percent. While many of the professional businesses have not had to lay off employees, the tourism-related businesses needed to lay off larger numbers from one to two employees to eight to 10 per business at a time. The same held true for employees that had a reduction of hours to their work scheduling. These results showed a bleak time frame for our community, mirroring many tourists towns in Colorado with a total of 79 percent of responding businesses reducing their business by 50 percent or more, or closing their doors.
An overwhelming 66 percent of the responding businesses applied for the Paycheck Protection Program assistance and 11 percent applied for EIDL assistance. Since then, many of these businesses have been extended that assistance. Of the programs that the Town of Pagosa Springs and/or Archuleta County offered, the most popular program was Take Out Tuesdays. Other important programs or services used have been the Pagosa Outreach Connection/Employee Incentive Program $200 gift cards, the services offered by the Department of Human Services and the various food pantries.
Of importance to the Economic Recovery Task Force is what businesses are looking for as we recover and what help can they use now. Topping the list now was obviously tax and loan deferments on a state and local level. Business interruption insurance and more COVID testing also ranked high on the needs list. Areas of concern were “How to let people back into the community safely” and “marketing.” Marketing included a number of subsets: What is the plan the community has? We need to communicate with one voice. Our window of economic opportunity is dwindling — what can we do? In addition, the community would be interested in free advertising opportunities or assistance with advertising for their business. Communicating that we are a safe place — we want to stay that way — and educating our tourists to safe practices is also paramount on the business community’s mind.
San Juan Basin Public Heath has made available to Archuleta County some signage that requires people entering your business to wear a mask and free masks that your employees can wear or you can hand out. If you are interested in obtaining any of the signage or the free masks, please contact the Chamber at 264-2360 to reserve your supply. We will issue the masks as long as supplies last. We will deliver those supplies to your place of business. There are a lot of dedicated volunteers making masks and resources where you can purchase masks. Contact the Chamber for more information.
We reiterate, if your business is not comfortable opening at this time, don’t open. That could be because you don’t have sanitation protocols in place, your employees do not feel comfortable coming back to work, you don’t feel there is enough business to justify spending the time opening on a full schedule. This is your choice. You can also come back gradually with reduced hours, reduced employees and there are many sanitation guidelines out there for a variety of businesses. Contact the Chamber for more information or visit our COVID website at www.pagosachamber.com/COVID-19-information/.