About two thirds of German-American Chamber of Commerce members in the South have averted laying off or furloughing employees throughout the pandemic, but many are facing a demand crunch as the economy stalls.
During the last two weeks of May, the chamber surveyed 101 members and non-members. About half of them work for foreign-owned subsidiaries, and at least half were C-suite or director-level decision makers, mostly in manufacturing, automotive and automation. One-third came from Georgia, and results came in from 12 states overall.
The GACC South, based in Atlanta with offices and chapters around the region, said the results show resilience among manufacturers even in light of a precipitous downturn in the economy.
Some 69.3 percent of respondents said they had not had to fire or furlough workers, while another 67.3 percent confirmed they had no plans to do so in the next three months. A majority (56 percent) had avoided pay cuts, while about a quarter had reduced pay for at least some workers. About 14 percent were considering reducing salaries in the future.
A majority of companies weren’t planning any significant changes to their operations once the COVID-19 storm passes, while some were planning to close physical locations, extend work-from-home measures or reduce employee compensation or benefits.
Stimulating demand seems to be the biggest hurdle to restarting operations, with 60 percent of respondents labeling this their main business challenge; no other single issue crossed 20 percent, and the second highest at 16.4 percent was the need to provide childcare for employees and their dependents.
Cleanliness will be an overall priority in reopening, as three-fourths of companies said they would institute a heightened focus around employee hand washing, distancing and disallowing work for those running a fever. Another 67 percent said they would
Those moves seem to tie in well with the legal challenges some companies foresee: 60 percent said they are concerned about liabilities emerging from safety issues.
In contrast to many foreign companies, most GACC-surveyed firms knew about resources available to help companies bridge the economic crisis, such as the Paycheck Protection Program from the U.S. Small Business Administration. More than a third, about 36 percent, received PPP funding, and another 6.1 percent received Economic Injury Disaster Loans, while 31 percent knew about the options but chose not to pursue them. Only 9.2 percent applied and were denied or are still awaiting a decision.
The survey comes as new GACC South President and CEO Matthias Hoffmann aims to get a handle on how to best serve the chamber’s more than 700 members across the region.
Mr. Hoffmann remains in Greece, stuck there by a pandemic-related travel ban although he has taken up his post officially (and virtually) as of April 1.
Having weathered the euro crisis and Greek downturns over more than a decade with the German chamber in Thessaloniki, he told Global Atlanta in a May interview that he honed his skills as a “crisis-proven manager” and looks forward to serving companies in the Southeast.
Download the GACC South survey results here.