Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/4/2020 (283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Three weeks after a state of emergency was declared in Manitoba, virtually shutting down the economy, Winnipeg businesses refuse to become despondent.
According to the latest survey of members of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, zero per cent of respondents say they plan to close permanently despite many of them being forced to shut down due to public health orders.
But that is not to say a cruel reality hasn’t sunk in for some of them. One-third of respondents said they are uncertain about their future plans.
The Winnipeg chamber will conduct regular surveys, which will change week to week depending on public health restrictions and federal government support programs.
Loren Remillard, president of the chamber, said the fact that none say they plan to close permanently speaks to the fundamental optimism of entrepreneurs.
"It’s a belief that you can meet a need or fill a gap in the marketplace," Remillard said.
"It is a natural belief in yourself and the viability of our idea."
Having said that, Remillard pointed out that about 33 per cent of businesses are uncertain enough that they are re-assess the situation from week to week.
"If this situation is prolonged for an extended period, the conversation will pivot and the numbers will change," he said.
Chamber members are concerned about having cash liquidity to cover their overhead — wages, rent, taxes — and all the other bills that keep the lights on and employees working.
The top concern of 50 per cent of respondents is whether they will have enough funding available to wait six weeks before the federal government’s 75 per cent wage subsidy kicks in.
Remillard said many businesses say they are not sure how to apply and that is adding to the stress.
He applauds the measures the federal government is taking to help business bear the burden of forced shutdowns, but Remillard said it is imperative that all businesses access as much funding as is available.
"As a business community, we are trying to come together to support one another toward the shared goal of ensuring Manitoba businesses understand everything they need to… so that they access their full share of the federal programs that have been announced," he said.
"That will put us in a much better position for recovery."
On Thursday, Statistics Canada released the first workforce survey since the beginning of the crisis. Unemployment jumped to 6.4 per cent in March from five per cent in February.
More than half of the respondents in the chamber survey said they have had to lay off staff.
"The first priority for our members is the health and well-being of their employees," Remillard said.
"Most of our members are trying to retain as much staff as possible because it will be that much easier for those companies, and the economy overall, to quickly pivot into the recovery phase if we have as many Manitobans working as possible."
Winnipeg chamber staff is calling every single one of its 2,100 members and Remillard said that process is hard on everyone.
"It is a very stressful, anxiety-producing experience to hear the stories of our members," he said.
"We’ve worked hard with all of them to help them grow over the years and to have something like COVID-19 come along and bring all that into doubt is hard to take."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.