We are so lucky. I know that seems a strange sentiment during such volatile times and with an uncertain future, but we are likely one of the few communities in the country to have access to local business leader insights from 2019, pre-COVID-19 2020, and following the arrival of coronavirus in March 2020 in Springfield.
Because of these snapshots in time thanks to the Springfield Business Journal Economic Growth Survey responses, we know our outlook was very strong as recently as the end of February. In fact, business confidence was just as strong as it was one year ago for Springfield’s first ever Business Confidence Index.
Not surprisingly, confidence took a fast dive just one month later in April. But within that drop are some interesting differences. Business leaders under the age of 34 are more optimistic than those over 35, and top leadership is more optimistic than middle management. The data are interesting, but now I want to know their why. Many of you replied that your company could survive for more than six months under the conditions of April, which included shelter-in-place orders drastically changing or limiting how we conducted business. That is remarkable. Now, I want to know their how.
When we partnered with SBJ last year for the first Economic Growth Survey, I was excited about the data and knew the resulting discussions would be enlightening. Little did we know then how truly critical our 2020 conversations would be. The importance is elevated this year of the six forums and publications where we delve into the why and how of our issues. The discussions we will have over the following seven months will evolve as our situation does, but most importantly these vital discussions will uncover problems we can solve and solutions we can implement for both our own businesses and our community.
We have a unique set of data from the Economic Growth Survey that gives us a special opportunity as we work toward recovery. This year, we have experienced a significant circumstance that none of us has ever experienced, so it will take us working together to innovate. And I believe we’re up for the challenge. Response rates increased dramatically for our second wave of surveys in 2020 with 696 business leaders responding. Thank you for sharing your valuable input. I think this is evidence that you want to be heard.
The survey took you about 10 minutes to complete; now I ask you to please give a little more of your time. Join us at the forums. Bring your ingenuity and creativity to help forge our path forward as a community. Or show up to make your own business stronger. Personally, this research gives me an opportunity to see what you as fellow business leaders are thinking, allowing me to evaluate different aspects of my business.
I would rather have data that shows me the way things are and other people’s perspectives than for me to read the tea leaves. SBJ’s Economic Growth Survey gives me an opportunity to hear what other people are facing and what their beliefs are – and it helps me think of things that I might not have thought of without their input.
In addition to the Economic Growth Survey data, we will be tracking additional trends, such as local sales tax revenues, building starts and industry specific data, which brings me to my second request. If you have access to local industry month-over-month trending data, please share that with us. Approximately every six weeks we will look to see where we are trending in the right direction, where we need to improve, and if there are ways as a community we can help facilitate how to forge forward.
The Forward SGF comprehensive plan was born from the input of residents, and one message that came through loud and clear was their desire for connection.