'They see light at the end of the tunnel'

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Economic Development Winnipeg has been taking the pulse of business leaders every year in a survey conducted by Probe Research and once again they have shown to be generally more optimistic than the general public.

Conducted during the last week of March and the first week of April, the 201 CEOs, business owners and senior managers were slightly more optimistic about the economic future of the city than they were a year ago (56 per cent this year compared to 53 per cent last year who were somewhat or very optimistic.)

That compares to 54 per cent of Manitobans in general from a Probe survey of 600 people done earlier in March.

While 47 per cent of business leaders said they and/or their businesses are worse off this year than they were a year ago, compared to 29 who reported that in March 2020, 76 per cent said they expect to be better in a year from now as opposed to 73 per cent who felt that way a year ago. (The 2020 survey was conducted late in March when news of the pandemic was just emerging.)

Dayna Spiring, the CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, said that while the business community acknowledges that they have been through significant hardship, they are fairly optimistic.

"They see the light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "They believe they are going to be better off next year than they are this year. I think that’s pretty clear."

In fact, far more business leaders reported that they are worse off this year (47 per cent) than average Manitobans did (25 per cent), perhaps an indication of how many individuals were able to avail themselves of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) whereas businesses still had to carry their fixed costs while many of them saw revenues severely reduced.

Spiring said the businesses really felt it on their bottom line, but the anticipation of pent-up demand has likely allowed them to believe there are better things on the horizon.

There is a general understanding that household savings are up as a consequence of the varying levels of restrictions that have been in place over the past 14 months.

"There has been limited places to spend money and the economy will get a bit of jump when we start to open up," Spiring said. "I think a lot of business see that they are going to benefit from that, which is good."

That sentiment also shows up when asked if they expect their workforce will increase over the next 12 months with 34 per cent saying they did (compared to only 22 per cent who felt that way a year ago).