Chamber survey: Indiana businesses bullish for 2021 due to vaccine

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(Photo supplied/Indiana Department of Workforce Development)

Indiana business leaders view vaccines for COVID-19 as a primary ingredient in the state’s economic recovery. They also provide a mixed outlook on the prospects for their own organizations in the year ahead.

The latest informal Indiana Chamber of Commerce economic survey, taking place online December 3-10, generated responses from 845 Chamber members and investors.

Asked about the importance of widespread vaccine implementation to the state’s economic recovery, the average response was 8.21 on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being most important. In addition, 61% expect to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees, while 28% are not sure. Only 11% of respondents say no – they won’t encourage employees to get the vaccine.

Potential on-site vaccinations for employees delivered a mixed response (23% yes; 39% no; and 38% not sure) with many citing the need for additional information.

“The tremendous efforts to bring these highly effective vaccines to market so quickly will be mitigated if the majority of Hoosiers are not vaccinated,” says Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber president and CEO. “It is promising to see so many business leaders willing to support and encourage the vaccines.

“Our ultimate business revival is dependent on this next step. Our economy will not be able to resume its full operations until the coronavirus is under control.”

In projecting the 2021 outlook for their business, respondents were more optimistic than not.

Nearly 50% (47%) indicated a return to “near normal” operations, versus 28% continuing

at the reduced levels of 2020. Additionally, 20% expected similar growth in 2021 compared to recent years, with 6% fearing potential closure without economic recovery.

When first asked in late June about long-term ramifications of the pandemic, 62% cited changing their business model to adapt to a new reality. That same question yielded a 56% response in December.

Remote workforces are a new reality for many. Forty-three percent indicated that all or some employees would continue to work remotely in at least a portion of the coming year. On the productivity of remote workers throughout 2020: 51% said they were less productive (36% of that total in the “slightly less productive” category); 12% more productive; and 37% no change.

Brinegar notes the Chamber will be leading advocacy efforts during the Indiana General Assembly session to look at incentives to attract additional talent, including remote workers, to the state.

“This is all part of the fierce battle for talent,” he shares. “We simply need more highly qualified people in the workforce. Bringing them to our state to take advantage of our low cost of living and high quality of life – no matter where they work initially – will be a first step to having them live AND work in Indiana.”

Additional survey findings include:

  • Economic impact to your business in 2020 (on a 1-10 scale): 6.5. This matches the June response and is below the 7.2 average in April
  • Specific business impacts in 2020: Revenue loss, 71%; cash flow issues, 35%; suspended operations at least temporarily, 34%; employee layoffs, 29%; no/minimal impact, 16%; added employees, 13%
  • Seventy-two percent (split evenly between very important and somewhat important) identify a new federal economic stimulus/relief package as a crucial factor

More than 50% of respondents have fewer than 50 employees. A broad cross section of industries was represented, with 24% in manufacturing and 17% in professional services. The latest survey followed previous polls in April and June.

Charts of the key findings are available at www.indianachamber.com/charts.

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