The following is commentary from Joshua Bonner, President and CEO of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce. 

Greetings Coachella Valley Business Community,

Let me start this message by saying a big thank you to Joe Wallace and his team at the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP).  The data mining and statistics they have provided since the onset of the current COVID-19 state of emergency has been invaluable in bringing facts and context to the current conversation around reopening the local economy.

CVEP just released the second edition of their economic impact survey for the Coachella Valley.  It painted, as expected, another bleak picture of the current local economy.  This survey captured data from April 29 to May 6.

Some of the staggering numbers it revealed:

  • 62% of businesses surveyed were not open
  • For the businesses that have managed to remain open, they are operating at an average capacity of 55%
  • 63% of businesses have laid off employees due to COVID-19
  • 99% of all respondents had seen a decrease in revenue
  • 56% of respondents have seen an almost complete stop to revenue (total shutdown)
  • Finally, Only 37% of businesses surveyed thought they could survive a shutdown of 9 weeks or more

(link to full survey HERE)

I could go on, there was nothing pretty about this survey, and it is not an anomaly.  The GCVCC recently conducted its own survey of 300 local businesses, we found that 42% of the workforce had been laid off. Because we had trouble contacting many business members that are currently closed down, the reality is that number is probably low.

These numbers continue to add to a growing consensus that now seems to have (finally) reached the Statehouse in Sacramento, this economy needs to reopen.  There were several positive developments last week, with various industries from restaurants to barber shops reopening.  I have personally visited and spoke with several of our local establishments, they are being diligent about following guidelines laid out by CAL OSHA and Riverside County. Many are still in the process of bringing their employees back while trying to adapt to the new reality of doing business in this COVID-19 environment.  But more than anything, they are experiencing something that has been void during the dark weeks behind us – HOPE.

In the coming weeks we hope to get additional guidance and see more segments of the economy reopen.  But as our businesses begin to reopen, let this be said loud and clear, this is not the end of the process. There are many outstanding issues ahead for the business community.

    • Dealing with the issue of a massive unbudgeted revenue gap created by the shelter-in-place order.  Loans are a nice stop gap, but loans only serve to kick the can down the road.  There is a loss of revenue in both the small business community, and the local government, that will need to be addressed by the federal government.
    • Protection from litigation.  Congress and/or the State will need to act to protect small business from the likely avalanche of lawsuits that will come out of the COVID-19 emergency.  Governor Newsom did not get us off to a good start with an executive order that presumes employees who contract COVID-19 did so at work.  This type of “open season” for claims and litigation against small business operators is a recipe for shuttered doors and lost jobs.
    • We need to get the hospitality sector fully opened up and running.  Tourism is the major employment and revenue generating machine in our valley, so long as it sits dormant our economy will continue to experience painful contraction.

We have seen some positive signs for our local business community over the last two weeks.  We will need to see much more in the days and weeks ahead.  I have no doubt it will not be an easy path.  For all my friends who ever asked why the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce invest so heavily in advocacy – buckle up, you’re about to get the answer.

With regards,

Joshua R. Bonner, IOM
President and CEO
Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce
(760) 347-0676