Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — Most North Carolina small businesses remain open but have seen revenues decline in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to results from a new survey of North Carolina small businesses released Wednesday by the Department of Commerce. The report also shows more than half of the respondents to the survey have taken advantage of financial assistance programs and that such programs remain crucial, including the need to better connect businesses to the programs that remain available.
The survey was conducted by the Commerce Department’s Main Street and Rural Planning Center (MS&RP), in partnership with the North Carolina Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC). The survey, fielded last fall, drew 1,219 responses from small businesses in all 100 North Carolina counties, including 275 towns.
“This extensive survey brings into better focus how COVID-19 has impacted small businesses in our state,” said Kenny Flowers, assistant commerce secretary for rural economic development. “Working with our colleagues at the SBTDC, our rural development team will collaborate with local government partners to provide the education and resources our small businesses need to survive this cruel pandemic.”
In the midst of the public health emergency, survey respondents reported many concerns, with fear that a resurgence of coronavirus cases might lead to additional business closures topping the list. The health and safety of both their customers and staff are of great concern to survey respondents. Small businesses also reported extensive and varied needs for training and support services. Among these were financial assistance information, the most requested need, followed by topics like penalty-free extensions on expenses, financial planning, social media training, website/ecommerce development, and business continuity planning.
The partnership between the Main Street & Rural Planning Center and the SBTDC aims to spur recovery and build more resilient local economies that can withstand the current pandemic as well as future crises and disasters. The organizations are responding to address several of the needs identified in the survey, such as providing training webinars, one-on-one support, and technical assistance in these areas:
♦ Business continuity planning;
♦ Marketing plan development;
♦ Financial planning and assistance;
♦ Pivoting a business;
♦ Creating social media; and
♦ Developing websites and e-commerce platforms.
Through the survey, 353 small businesses requested one-on-one business counseling services, which the SBTDC provides routinely at no charge.
For additional findings and data from the survey, download the survey report from the N.C. Commerce website.
About the North Carolina Main Street & Rural Planning Center
The North Carolina Main Street & Rural Planning Center (MS&RP Center), part of the Rural Economic Development Division in the North Carolina Department of Commerce, reaches out to provide technical assistance and services to rural communities across North Carolina. The Center primarily serves local units of government and their nonprofit downtown corporations, along with other economic development partners. Its Main Street team works with 87 communities across the state, from Murphy to Manteo, that are enrolled with one of three distinct Main Street programs. The Center’s rural planning team works with local units of government in all 100 North Carolina counties, focusing on locations in rural parts of the state.