Last Thursday, the UCCS Economic Forum and State of Small Business 2020 event provided insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the local economy and small businesses.
This was the first time that the UCCS Economic Forum annual community presentation combined with the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) event.
“What a better way to talk about the impact on the small business community than to combine both of our events,” said Akita Marcoulier, executive director of the SBDC.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March, it caused a major disruption to the small business community around the world and in Colorado Springs.
According to the Colorado Business COVID-19 Impact survey in April, small businesses saw a decline in revenue that impacted their workforce, and they needed short-term financial assistance.
The survey also revealed that not all small businesses were impacted to the same degree by the pandemic.
Over 2,382 businesses responded to this survey across the state of Colorado, and according to Marcoulier, small businesses are still facing the same problems and needs today.
Not all businesses received the financial assistance necessary to move forward as they struggled to access capital, including communities of color, who had unequal access.
“Of course, access to capital for small businesses during the pandemic was a big hurdle. And it normally is something that we talk about, but during the pandemic, it really was brought to the height of awareness,” Marcoulier said.
Marcoulier pointed out that despite the problems facing the community, hundreds of new businesses are starting, and new programs and task forces are working together to assist economic development in the region.
According to Tatianna Bailey, director of the UCCS Economic Forum, the Pikes Peak region’s economy is already doing better than the state of Colorado and the rest of the nation in a couple of key factors.
Bailey said that since March and April, Colorado Springs regained 72 percent of the jobs it initially lost. Denver regained 57 percent of its jobs back, and Boulder regained 25 percent.
The El Paso County unemployment rate is also lower than both the state and national rates.
According to Bailey, Colorado Springs is doing better in these areas because a high proportion of local jobs are professional jobs that can be done remotely. There are also more Department of Defense jobs comparatively in the local economy than in the U.S. and Colorado; these jobs remained mostly unaffected. The local economy also has fewer hospitality jobs compared to cities like Denver; these jobs were the most affected.
However, El Paso County falls short on private industry wages compared to the rest of Colorado and the country, and according to Baily, this was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the difference has grown since it began.
“I am not making any drastic conclusions yet. We were lower to begin with, but this big chasm may be skewed a little bit by the share of people in different industries,” Bailey said.
Bailey believes the COVID-19 pandemic crisis can lead to some opportunities.
“A crisis, I think, is a terrible thing to waste; it can create opportunity,” Bailey said.
Bailey argues that smart communities will learn from this crisis and will use it to prepare for other possible disasters, and that smart communities will innovate by embracing trends that are already in play, like alternative energy.
To watch the UCCS Economic Forum and State of Small Business 2020, click here.