Dr. Tim Melvin, assistant professor and director of assessment for Marshall University’s College of Education and Professional Development, and Sara Payne Scarbro, associate vice president for external engagement at the Marshall University Research Corporation and operations council chair for the Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia (Alliance), today announced that 605 business leaders participated in the statewide survey, titled “Current Issues for West Virginia Small Business Leaders,” which was designed by a working group of educators, business experts and state leaders to help understand the current operational issues regarding COVID-19, trends for businesses in West Virginia and potential opportunities for growth.
To access the survey highlights, visit: https://www.marshall.edu/wvsmallbusiness/.
“Our survey participation grew 400 percent over last year, so we are truly excited to provide these summary highlights to the public,” Scarbro said. “Higher education institutions are strong economic and community partners and the alliance institutions are dedicated to not only providing a quality education to our students, but also being partners to industry, government and communities to help grow our state’s population, talent and economy.”
Here are some key survey takeaways:
- COVID-19 Impact: Fifty-one percent of respondents stated that their business operations reduced in the last 12 months due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 14 percent of respondents stated that their business operations expanded in the last 12 months due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and 35 percent stated their operations stayed the same.
- Remote Working: Twenty-two percent of respondents stated that their business had the capability and allowed employees to work remotely.
- Workforce: Thirty-six percent of respondents stated that their workforce grew during the five years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-nine percent said that their workforce levels remained the same during the five years prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic and 15 percent of respondents stated that they had to reduce positions during this same time frame.
- Internship Development: Sixty-two percent of respondents stated that they do not currently host interns or apprentices but 46 percent of this group would be open to hosting in the future.
- Business Operational Challenges: Thirty percent of respondents stated that employee hiring (finding reliable employees), was the most challenging, followed by business capital and financing (23 percent); offering health insurance (14 percent); marketing, promotions and communications (12 percent); and financial, tax, environmental or privacy Regulations (9 percent).
- Workforce Challenges: Fifty-two percent of respondents stated that finding skilled workers is the greatest workforce challenge.
- Programming: The top five topics that would be helpful to the respondents and to their employees include resources for small businesses/government programs; access to capital; e-commerce, website development, social media tools; marketing/branding; human resources programming and accounting/tax issues.
- Succession Planning: Seventy-five percent of respondents do not have a complete succession plan in place.
The statewide survey is an official project of the Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia (Alliance), a higher education collaborative of the 10 colleges and universities in southern West Virginia. The alliance represents about 30,000 students, in a 21-county footprint. Institutions include Bluefield State College, BridgeValley Community and Technical College, Concord University, Marshall University, Mountwest Community & Technical College, New River Community and Technical College, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, West Virginia State University and West Virginia University Institute of Technology.
“This survey provides us important insight into the current business climate, the impact of COVID-19 and the programming, professional development and training needs of our business leaders,” Melvin said. “This annual survey is truly a great, free resource that the alliance provides to our community and state experts and can act as a point of reference for our leaders as they develop policies to strengthen our state’s business sector.”
Marshall University chairs the alliance and more information about the collaborative can be found at https://www.marshall.edu/aedswv/. A regional assessment of Southern West Virginia business leaders can be found online here: https://www.marshall.edu/aedswv/files/2021/03/Final-Small-Business-Leaders-Survey-2021-1.pdf