Grove City’s development department has embarked on an effort to contact area businesses to find out how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has impacted them.
As of April 17, when the initial data was compiled, calls had been made to about 300 businesses, representing around one-third of all businesses within the community, development director Kyle Rauch said.
Three full-time staff members and one part-time employee are working on the survey, Rauch said.
“The ideal goal we’re working on is to contact all of our area businesses, if possible, and if they respond,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process, and the data we’re collecting will continue to change as more businesses are contacted. COVID-19 is a fast-moving situation.”
The survey has two purposes, he said.
“We wanted to reach out to our local business community to do a wellness check and find out what challenges they are facing and what changes they have made due to COVID-19,” Rauch said.
“We also want to let them know we’re here to help connect them with the state and national resources that might offer them the assistance they might need,” he said.
In compiling the data, the development department is dividing businesses into several categories, including food service, accommodations, commercial-retail, commercial-service and industrial.
One of the hardest-hit categories is accommodation-based businesses, he said.
Of the 16 hotels in Grove City, 69% indicated their business has been critically impacted by COVID-19, 13% said there has been some impact and 19% have not responded, Rauch said.
Two hotels have closed since the beginning of April, he said.
The hotels that have remained open are averaging a 21.5% occupancy rate, Rauch said.
The businesses that reported having been somewhat impacted have about half of their rooms occupied, he said.
“They have some prior contracts with business corporations or appear to be extended-stay businesses because of the longer-term extent of (guests’) stays,” Rauch said.
The feedback from industrial businesses is interesting because many of them are seeing increased business, not less, during the pandemic, he said.
Additional employees are being hired at several Grove City operations, including the FedEx Ground hub, Walmart Distribution Center and CTDI, Rauch said.
“Businesses that are involved in logistics are still doing well, generally, because there’s a high demand for getting products from place to place,” he said.
Thirty-four percent of the 63 industrial-based businesses that have been called reported no impact. Five percent said their business has been critically impacted, and 16% reported some impact. The city is waiting for responses from 45% of the businesses.
In some cases in which a business reported a slight impact, the company has seen a reduction of business in one area while the coronavirus situation has opened up other opportunities for the company, Rauch said.
Companies that supply parts and services to the automotive sector have experienced significant impacts, he said.
Thirty-five percent of the 104 service-based businesses that were called as of April 17 reported the pandemic has had a critical impact on their operations, Rauch said. Eighteen percent report some impact and 9% report no impact. The remaining 39% have not responded yet.
In this category, mostly financial businesses, including banks, reported no impact, according to city leaders.
The rest are seeing some impact, whether it’s entertainment, personal fitness, beauty and nail salons or child-care centers that have had to close because of the state’s stay-at-home order, or medical and chiropractic offices that are still open but making adjustments to provide social distancing.
Dr. Jason Feltz owns and operates Tree of Life Chiropractic, 3725 Broadway.
Chiropractic and medical offices are included as essential businesses that can remain open during the stay-at-home order.
“We still saw a dropoff in business in the first few weeks, probably a 25% drop, but it’s beginning to pick up again,” he said. “We’re probably at about 15% (decrease in appointments) now. People have a need and desire to take care of their health and well-being.”
But Tree of Life is having its patients wait in their cars in the parking lot and notifies them by text when Feltz and his staff are ready for their appointment.
“There’s generally never more than seven people in our office at one time, including me, our staff and patients and their family members or children,” Feltz said. “People don’t have to wait very long before they can come in.”
He said he wears a mask if the patient requests it.
“I’m the only person in our office who will at any time get physically close to the patient, and I try to keep distance as much as possible,” Feltz said.
Although his practice remains in operation, Feltz said, he can’t help but think about and feel for those business owners who have had to close temporarily because of the pandemic.
“I can’t wait to be able to get back out and support our local businesses,” the Grove City resident said.
“I’m cutting my own hair, but I’m sending a payment to my stylist because they would be getting paid for giving me a haircut (in normal times).”
Other results from the survey of businesses were what would be expected, Rauch said.
All retail businesses have been impacted, and most of those that have been able to remain open have had to reduce hours and/or furlough employees, he said. Businesses that are open also have turned to online or phone sales and offering curbside pickup and/or delivery.
Grocery stores are doing well, Rauch said.
Restaurants with drive-thrus are seeing a lot of business and some dine-in establishments have been able to switch to carryout and delivery, but many have reduced hours and furloughed employees, he said. Delivery-based pizza shops also are doing well.
While asking businesses questions, “we’re also letting them know about the resources that might be out there to help them, especially programs from the SBA (Small Business Administration), the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) and PPP (Paycheck Protection Program),” Rauch said.
“We’re not offering them any financial advice, but just telling them we’re here to help get them in touch with the people they need to reach,” he said. “For example, with the PPP, you have to go through a preferred lender, and we can help make sure they can establish a relationship with a preferred lender.”