While the worst seems to be in the past, COVID-19 has rocked every facet of everyone’s life over the past year. From social distancing to endless Zoom meetings, everyone has had to adjust to a new normal. One of the worst effects of the pandemic outside of the health of individuals has been its economic impact, especially on small businesses.
A survey conducted by CBIZ, Inc in October 2020, 37% of companies with 20 to 49 employees experienced a significant or severe impact, this number rising to 48% for companies with 1 to 4 employees.
Small businesses in Utah were naturally affected, but weathered the storm much better than most other states. the U.S. Census Small Business Impulse Survey, which has been conducted weekly since the start of the pandemic, has consistently shown that businesses in Utah are less affected by COVID-19 than those in other states.
At the end of April 2020, 38% of Utah businesses surveyed reported a significant negative effect from COVID-19, compared to 51.4% nationally. Almost a year later, those figures were 17.1% and 26.7% respectively.
Other key indicators also showed that Utah’s economy is recovering much faster than most of our country. For example, unemployment here was 3.6% in December 2020 compared to 6.7% nationally, according to the Department of Workforce Services.
So how did Utahns do this? There were many contributing factors, but here are four reasons Utah weathered the storm so well.
A strong economy
Utah was ahead of many other states entering the pandemic because the Beehive state’s economy was booming.
Unemployment rates were significantly low, hovering around 2.5%, according to data from the Manpower Services Department.
The tech industry was booming. In 2019, more than 13,000 new jobs were created statewide and more than $ 1 billion in new capital was invested in 21 new business expansion projects. We had also built houses and apartments at a rate three times the national average, according to Forbes. This type of growth was unprecedented.
In fact, the the Wall Street newspaper named Utah America’s economic star just before the turn of 2020. This strong economy, coupled with the diverse portfolio of industries that operate in the state, has made the private sector more resilient to the blow of COVID-19 than most others. It also allowed many Utahns to maintain some financial stability and purchasing power amid the turmoil.
A rapid response to COVID-19
The Utah Department of Health was quick to release industry guidelines early in the pandemic by partnering with the Salt Lake City Room under the “Stay safe to stay open” initiative. This allowed many businesses to stay open as they could immediately implement the necessary security measures for employees and customers.
The Utahns are also lucky in that the virus has not been as deadly at the Utah borders as most other states. Although the cases have been very high –about 12% of our population has tested positive for the virus, ranking fourth among the worst countries in the country – our death rate is sixth best in the country, according to a Statista report. This is likely due to the fact that Utah’s demographics are younger and COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting older people, as pointed out Columnist Deseret News Jay Evensen.
Adaptive and tenacious companies
The Utahns are tough and know how to adapt when monumental changes are underway. With the pandemic in play, many companies have had to reverse their entire business model to stay afloat – and have done so effectively.
In the food industry, restaurants (such as Gluttony, Cucina and Este Pizzeria) began offering take-out meal kits. Distilleries have turned to the creation of hand sanitizer. Employers have increasingly started to allow their teams to telecommute when possible. In fact, Utah has been one of the top three states for telecommuting flexibility since the start of the pandemic: nearly half of the state’s workforce has earned more working days from home, notes a report from Census.gov.
The burgeoning local film scene has weathered the initial blow by creating a COVID-19 compliance department – allowing some filming to resume as early as May 2020. As a result, 2020 has seen an increase in inquiries and productions in the world. ‘Utah, with more commercials, television series and feature films filmed statewide than ever before, reports the Utah Film Commission.
Utahns help each other
Finally, we know: the Utahns are very community-oriented. And at a time when isolation was necessary, solidarity was even more necessary.
Originally from Hurricane Hoang Ha created Neighbors help neighbors, a website allowing volunteers to connect with immunocompromised people and the elderly to help them with their daily groceries.
Similar programs quickly sprang up along the Wasatch front, such as the Salt Lake City chapter of the nonprofit Leave it to us, an organization that helped people buy daily supplies and essentials.
Throughout the worst of the pandemic, kindness and unity kept everyone going and keeping their hopes up. Now that the end is in sight, it is not time to take a break. Make sure the local economy is always booming by supporting local businesses and the people who depend on them. Visit the Salt Lake Chamber website for ideas on how to support small businesses.