Fidelity Bank recently announced the results of its 2021 Economic Survey, providing an overview of how more than 200 businesses and more than 500 consumers perceive the state and regional economy over the next 12 months as the region recovers from the pandemic.
While the effects of COVID-19 are keeping the region’s business owners up at night, consumers are now focused on having more control over their finances, with particular focus on paying off debt and ensuring a healthy nest egg. Survey respondents believe the pandemic will impact the economy for the next one to two years, with more than 60 percent of respondents indicating the changes they made in response to the pandemic will last indefinitely. In fact, more than half of the business respondents acknowledged the changes they made during the pandemic were positive.
Vector Five, a Lunenburg-based business that designs and builds displays and exhibits for trade shows, saw an immediate halt on their trade show schedule in 2020. The business re-evaluated their current business model and recently announced a new division, Spaces by Five, which provides corporate interior and exterior upgrades, from concept to execution.
“We are dedicated to bringing brand expression to life at trade shows and events,” said Dawn Perkins, Partner, Vector Five. “While the pandemic created challenges for our clients and our own business with the cancelation of in-person events, we learned we can complement our services by partnering with our general contracting, production set-up and graphics teams to build out interior and exterior business spaces, too, which is how we developed Spaces by Five.”
Job security is expected to be in worst shape when compared to 2019, with half of business respondents indicating hiring will increase or decrease in 2021, and 89 percent indicating they have invested in the workforce over the past 12 months. In addition to COVID-19, the availability of skilled labor remains a top concern in addition to costs of living, government, and fuel and energy.
With this in mind, businesses indicated a commitment of utilizing capital investments on hiring new workers and purchasing equipment over the next year. Respondents felt the federal government’s response to aide small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was acceptable, and well over half of the respondents have a positive view on the government’s handling of PPP. Fidelity Bank helped local businesses obtain more than $40 million under the Paycheck Protection Program.
ModuForm, a Fitchburg-based, family-owned company that manufactures contemporary, durable and comfortable furnishings for use in behavioral health hospitals, colleges, libraries and other commercial applications, attempted to obtain a PPP loan from a larger bank, but turned to Fidelity Bank for guidance following more than 60 days of confusion. “When trying to get answers from a larger bank, we were treated with total indifference for over two months,” said Joshua Weissman, President, ModuForm. “Within days of contacting Fidelity Bank, all of our paperwork was submitted, and the funds were available to us shortly thereafter. The Fidelity Bank team was very responsive, provided clarity and made the process simple from beginning to end.”
It’s no surprise that consumer spending was down in the last year. When shopping, the best value and price maintained the top influence for 2021, followed by safety protocols, online shopping, and convenience.
“In 2019, the idea of safety protocols when deciding about where to shop was not even on a consumer’s mind,” said Ed Manzi, Chairman and CEO, Fidelity Bank. “This survey proves that while business plans and spending habits have changed due to the pandemic so too has our awareness of being safe when leaving the comforts of home.”
While respondents indicated recovery from COVID-19 could last years, more than half of all respondents believe the North Central Massachusetts economy will be in better or somewhat better shape in 2021.
“We’ve known all along that business owners and consumers who call our communities home are tenacious and resilient,” said Manzi. “As the commonwealth reopens this summer, we can all do our part to help the economy quickly recover by supporting our businesses while enjoying the company of those we’ve missed in the past year.”
To view the Fidelity Bank 2021 Economic Survey in its entirety, visit https://www.fidelitybankonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2021-Fidelity-Bank-Econ-Survey.pdf