WINDSOR, ONT. -- The impact, adaptation and outlook of local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighted in the recent Windsor-Essex Economic Development Survey.

Workforce WindsorEssex, St. Clair College, and Invest WindsorEssex launched the results of the survey on Thursday.

The survey received 280 responses from local businesses, the majority of which were from the Retail and Manufacturing sectors. Of the 280 responses, 41 per cent were from micro businesses, which have between one and four employees.

It showed 77 per cent of respondents expect to feel impact of COVID-19 pandemic for next six to 18 months.

This annual survey, which was conducted from April 8-30, 2021, identifies the needs of businesses and assists economic development professionals to develop strategies that will support businesses to stay, grow, and become more competitive.

“The pandemic undoubtedly had an impact on respondents and has shaped how they do business,” said a news release from Workforce WindsorEssex.

A total of 43 per cent of respondents have all employees in the workplace, while 12 per cent of respondents noted that they will continue to operate their businesses remotely on an indefinite basis.

The survey indicated 46 per cent of respondents added a new product or service related to the pandemic to their business.

Survey respondents varied in their experiences with the pandemic. While 48 per cent of respondents reported no attitude change about doing business in the community since last year, 24 per cent feel more negative since last year.

Of the respondents, 118 businesses reported they plan to expand and seven indicated they will be closing.

The top barriers to growth in the region were identified as closure due to the pandemic, marketing, and capacity limits due to the pandemic. The cost of electricity, development charges, and the cost of space for rent or lease were identified by respondents as the most negative factors in doing business in the community.

“On the brighter side, 75 per cent of respondents feel that the Windsor-Essex region is an excellent or good community in which to do business and most positively ranked the following factors: availability of adequate electricity and availability of natural gas,” said Workforce WindsorEssex.

Responses from the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Survey will inform efforts in developing economic recovery plans for the region and for individual sectors as well as for broader programming for Windsor-Essex businesses.