Massachusetts businesses still feel effects of pandemic, poll shows –

Businesses in Western Massachusetts are less likely to say they are seeking capital to hire more employees, buy more equipment or otherwise expand, according to the results of a survey released today by the MassINC Polling Group.

Those same Western Massachusetts respondents — from Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties — were also more likely to tell pollsters they have no job openings even given the hot labor market and ubiquitous help wanted signs in shop windows, 44% of businesses in the region opposed to 39% statewide.

While the economies for each half of the state are similar, Richard Parr, research director for the MassINC Polling Group, said “We know that the Western Mass Economy is not as white hot as the Eastern Mass economy.”

Overall, the poll found that the pandemic is not over for Massachusetts small business with about half —53% — reporting their revenues remain lower than before the pandemic, a number that was fairly consistent across regions of the state.

“We are still not quite out of the hole that the pandemic dug for these small businesses,” he said.

Richard Parr

Richard Parr, research director of The MassINC Polling Group. (photo provided)

The survey found larger businesses are better positioned to deal with inflation, with those with revenues over $500,000 saying they face increasing both wages — 73% — and prices — 69% — than businesses reporting less than $100,000 in revenue: 40% and 29% respectively.

The MassINC Polling Group released the findings Thursday of a poll it put into the field June 30 through Aug. 9. The poll received back 3,243 written responses, 525 of them from Western Massachusetts.

The poll is the subject of a virtual forum from 1 to 2:30 p.m. today moderated by Tracye Whitfield, Springfield councilor and executive director of the Coalition for an Equitable Economy. The Coalition is one of the sponsors. State Sen. Adam Gomez Sr., D-Springfield, will also speak.

The survey also shed light on the differences between white owned and Black-owned businesses.

Parr said that among white-owned businesses, 23% say a key leader is planning retirement and 24% say they are planning a sale of the business, both higher than the share for businesses owned by people of color.

“They are thinking about legacy,” Parr said. “They are thinking that ‘I am going to retire and sell their business to somebody’.”

For Whitfield, that sounds like an opportunity.

“Some of them don’t have a succession plan,” she said. “I think there is an opportunity there for small business owners to expand or purchase those businesses.”

And minority business owners tend to be younger.

There is a catch, however. According to the poll, accessing capital was a “major concern” for Black (85%), Latino (88%), and Asian/Pacific American or Asian/Pacific Islander-owned businesses (77%) than for white-owned businesses (55%).

“That’s a particular concern for these younger, nonwhite businesses that are looking to expand,” Parr said.

“So that falls on the people who control the capital,” he said. “Banks, credit unions, private sector lenders.”

Whitfield said this means enlisting the services of business groups like Valley Venture Mentors, and the enterprise lender Common Capital and the new Latino Economic Development Corp.

“We just really have to come together and tap into all the resources,” she said.

Related content