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Sudbury-area businesses still struggling through pandemic, says survey

Provincial government could've done better job in managing the crisis, according to business operators
Sudbury aerial
( photo)

One year after the outbreak of the pandemic, there remains a lingering impact on businesses in the Sudbury-Manitoulin area.

The Workforce Planning for Sudbury & Manitoulin, the City of Greater Sudbury, and Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce released an updated survey of businesses and organizations, deemed non-essential, to take their temperature of what the pandemic's impact has been on their workforce, how they've adapted. and how they're managing.

They received responses from 215 private businesses, government institutions and not-for-profits. About 50 per cent of respondents in the Greater Sudbury area said the pandemic's impact on their long-term business prospects was going to significantly impact their financials or put them out of business.

Eighty-one per cent said the pandemic forced them to reduce hours, cut staff and the size of their business operation, or it forced them to work from home while maintaining operations.

Many endured supply chains disruptions, delayed or cancelled contracts, decreased sales and reduced spending. Seventy-one per cent increased their cleaning and sanitation costs in the office and 60 per cent spent more on IT services, screening, security and on PPEs.

From 125 responses, quite a few businesses said they have not hired back the staff they let go at the outset of the pandemic.

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The survey takers added up 1,408 layoffs of full-timers, part-timers, seasonal and contract workers. From 117 responses, 622 people have been hired or rehired.

In a news release, Reggie Caverson, executive director for Workforce Planning for Sudbury & Manitoulin, said many made adjustments to stay open.

"Adaptations include everything from new online services, sales and training, to website development, curbside delivery, remote offices and use of virtual platforms to conduct daily business.”

"The findings of this survey clearly indicate that the pandemic has had a lasting impact on SMEs (small-to-medium-sized enterprises), the full extent to which is immeasurable and unknown at this point in time," said Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce president Debbi Nicholson in a statement.

Five-one per cent of those who responded weren't pleased with the province's pandemic response citing the slow roll-out of a vaccination strategy, mixed and unclear messaging, province-wide closures, lack of travel restrictions to protect low risk areas, lack of support for small businesses, and general lack of government leadership.

Caverson said the response from area businesses over the past year has been similar in wanting “clear and consistent public health guidelines, increasing the number of people getting vaccinated and successful measures to mitigate the transmission and spread of new variants, along with continuing government supports will all be key to helping businesses get back up to speed so they not only survive, but thrive into the future.”

Dive into the details of the report here.