Farmington chamber survey shows strong impact from coronavirus shutdown
Nearly a fourth of respondents say they have closed or will close their doors because of pandemic
FARMINGTON — Not surprisingly, a survey of business owners conducted by the Farmington Chamber of Commerce in late March about how the coronavirus-related shutdown has impacted them shows some worrisome results.
A total of 164 merchants responded to the survey, a strong number that Jamie Church, president and CEO of the chamber, said indicates that merchants have grasped the gravity of the situation and want others to understand their situation.
"People want to be heard," she said.
The two main takeaways from the survey are questions about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the business of respondents and whether they have laid off any employees. In regard to the former, nearly one-fourth of respondents — 23.7 percent — reported that they have closed or will be closing their doors until further notice. Another 12.8 percent said their business was down 70 to 90 percent, and an additional 12.8 percent reported their business was down 50 to 70 percent. Other respondents reported a lesser impact.
Only 10.9 percent of respondents said the pandemic had had no effect on their business, and 1 percent reported their business had increased.
As for how the situation had impacted their employment numbers, nearly two-thirds of respondents, 65.8 percent, said they had not laid off any workers. Slightly more than 10 percent of merchants reported having laid off 75 to 100 percent of their employees, and another 4.8 percent said they had laid off 51 to 75 percent of their workers.
Church emphasized that the responses were received by the end of March, before Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham extended a shelter-in-place order for the state and the worst economic impacts of the shutdown likely began to be felt. She said chamber already is planning on conducting a second survey, probably in the middle of April, and she is expecting the results from that effort to be even more sobering, especially in regard to the number of laid-off workers.
The survey also included some open-ended questions that produced some interesting results, Church said. She said many of those who responded indicated a strong desire to see a centralized location where they could find comprehensive, reliable information about the pandemic, the shutdown and government responses.
Church said that information is out there, but it is coming rapidly and is dispensed through a variety of forums. She said it is clear the business community would prefer to see one-stop shopping when it comes to that.
"They want one place where they can find out everything they need to know," she said. "But that's difficult to do, because there's so much information."
Church said that situation was perfectly understandable, given the complicated nature of the problem.
"It wasn't a lack of information, just, 'Where do you go to get the most comprehensive view of what's going on?'" she said.
Church also said the survey responses were taken before the federal stimulus package, otherwise known as the CARES Act, was passed by Congress and signed by the president. She said she was interested to see how many local business owners have applied for emergency loans under the legislation and what their experience was like.
Various chambers of commerce around the region and the state have been conducting surveys of their own, and Church said it was likely those organizations will begin to coordinate their efforts and ask many of the same questions so that they can compare results and identify trends. She said that kind of baseline data will be invaluable when the pandemic recedes and a recovery period begins.
On the brighter side, many of the merchants who responded to the survey expressed appreciation for the support they had received from community members during the crisis.
"They did feel like the community is behind them," she said. "It's a tough thing right now, and I think we all feel it."
The survey results can be found at gofarmington.com.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/216TU0e