While the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects have been felt throughout the United States, few areas have experienced the sort of immediate, deep and potentially far-reaching economic impact that Southeast Alaska has witnessed during the past three months.
To date, most of us have had a general sense of what’s happening economically in the region through personal experience, conversations with friends and associates, news media and other sources. A fuller look at the effects is available now, however, through the new Southeast Alaska Business Climate and COVID-19 Impacts Survey 2020 compiled by Rain Coast Data and released Wednesday by Southeast Conference.
It’s an eye-opener.
More than 450 Southeast Alaska business owners and managers participated in the web-based survey that was conducted from June 4 to June 18.
They responded to 28 questions, some of which provided the opportunity for participants to elaborate with comments beyond simply marking a canned response.
The overall picture they paint is unlike those in previous years.
“Southeast Alaska business leaders’ overall economic outlook tends not to change much on an annual basis,” states the 64-page survey report, “however, 2020 is clearly an exception.”
Many survey findings are likely as anticipated.
For example, most businesses — a full three-quarters — indicated that the economic outlook for their industry or specific business is negative for the next 12 months, according to the survey results. The same survey in 2019 showed a smaller percentage (about 33%) of businesses with a similar perspective.
But while significant portions of the survey responses are as dire as one might expect under the circumstances, the survey report’s nuances are illuminating. Outlooks in Sitka are not the same as in Ketchikan; perspectives vary between business types. And amidst the heavy predominance of deeply concerning information are some signs of stability.
What elevates the report’s value beyond “data” and percentages is the catalogue of comments received from survey participants. These are the voices of Southeast Alaskans, describing their individual situations and providing windows into their worlds in ways that are difficult to depict with multiple-choice questions.
The full report is worth reading by anyone with an interest in Southeast Alaska’s current and future economic climate.
We agree with Southeast Conference Executive Director Robert Venables when he says: “There is no sugar-coating the grim state of our economy.
“We need to rally around our at-risk businesses and do everything possible to stabilize their situation while working toward an economic recovery,” Venables continued in a prepared statement announcing the release of the survey result report. “There is no quick or easy fix, but Southeast Alaskans are resilient and have continually bounced back from economic disasters. This survey gives voice to the economic woes but also provides understanding of the needs and challenges we must meet.”
The survey report is available on the Southeast Conference website at www.seconference.org.