December Message from Board Chair Karen Vineyard

Published Monday, December 14, 2020

OBI Annual Member Survey Shows Oregon Businesses Are Resilient, But Need Help – Not Harm – from Elected Leaders

Each year, the OBI board gets together to discuss our goals for the following year. We try to be guided by what we are hearing from our members, and this year that was especially important.

The year 2020 has been unlike anything we have ever experienced, and we can reasonably assume that 2021 will be a continuing challenge. Your OBI board knows businesses are experiencing unprecedented stress, and to understand it better we did a survey of our 1,600+ members to hear what is on your minds – and what matters most as we climb out of this COVID-19 recession.

The survey, conducted online by DHM Research, was in the field from Oct. 12-30 -- before the additional business closures ordered by Gov. Brown in mid-November. The results confirmed what we have been hearing from you for the past several months: Oregon businesses are resilient, but they are also stressed – and very worried about their futures.

Here is what you told us:

  • 83% of the members who responded have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
  • 39% have faced short- and long-term challenges from the destructive September wildfires.
  • And 83% are somewhat or very worried about their company’s financial situation.
  • A full 80% say Oregon is on the wrong track.
  • 81% rate our economy as “only fair” or “poor.”
  • When asked to rank their policy needs in the next 12 months, overwhelmingly, Oregon businesses say they need a break: No new taxes was their top priority, not a surprising result when you consider that Oregon’s business tax burden will increase 41% between 2019 and 2022, according to a study OBI commissioned with the State Tax Research Institute.

With the state revenue forecast stable in the near-term, but less certain in the months ahead, we asked our members what state programs were the most important. Not surprisingly, coming in at Number 1: economic assistance to businesses. Rounding out the top three were K-12 education funding and public safety.

What does it all mean? In analyzing these responses, the message is very clear: Businesses need help from our elected leaders. As we reflect on the challenges of 2020 and look toward the coming year, it is imperative that legislators and agency directors understand their first mission must be to help businesses get back on their feet and put Oregonians back to work. Adding new costs in the form of additional taxes and regulations will not help.

For OBI, our charge in 2021 will be – as it has always been – to advocate on behalf of our members. If our economy is going to recover, those in power need to listen to those on the ground. Do no harm.