Survey of Rhode Island Manufacturing Business Owners Hints at Varied Recovery Timeframes

Polaris MEP poll shows support for state COVID-19 coronavirus guidance

Providence, RI – May 5, 2020 – A poll of owners/CEOs of Rhode Island manufacturing businesses found that, despite operational challenges posed by state guidance on social distancing and masks, more than one-quarter would not ask for any restrictions to be relaxed at this moment. The Polaris MEP survey also revealed that sales is the area most affected by the pandemic to date.

“As much as the bottom line is important, the health of our state and residents are far more important,” wrote one Rhode Island manufacturer. “We would not want the current restrictions relaxed until it is deemed safe.”

Chart - RI Manufacturers survey - which COVID-19 restrictions wish to relax

“The Rhode Island manufacturing sector appreciated the responsibility of remaining open during the lockdown, and they took employee safely seriously, for instance by quickly coalescing around the Manufacturing pledge created by the RI Manufacturing Association” said Christian Cowan, Polaris MEP Center Director. “That commitment is reinforced by our survey findings.”

Polaris MEP, an affiliate of the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership, provides competitive business improvement programs to Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry. The poll was part of the agency’s efforts to innovate supportive solutions to requirements such as face coverings.

Cowan said the survey highlights how the pandemic has affected manufacturers in different ways. “While some companies have seen business increase or have been able to pivot to making items needed for COVID-19 response, others have been hit hard by decreases in sales.”

Chart - RI Manufacturers survey - which business area most impacted by COVID-19

Highlights of the survey of CEOs/owners include:

  • 62% said Sales was the business area hardest-hit by COVID-19
  • 38% of respondents cited Social Distancing as having the greatest negative impact on operations vs. 26% citing Visitor Access limits
  • 11% of those surveyed said None of the state guidance/restrictions had restricted their ability to operate
  • 26% of RI’s manufacturing business owners would not have the state relax any restrictions unless or until COVID-19 was fully contained
  • 29% of owners said it would take them less than one month to return to “business as usual,” were COVID-19 to end today. Another 29% said it would take one to three months; 25% said it would take more than six months to return to fully functioning
Chart - RI Manufacturers survey - How long to return to fully functioning after COVID-19

About Polaris MEP

Polaris MEP provides competitive business improvement programs to grow Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry. Polaris MEP is a statewide nonprofit organization. An affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the consultancy is a business unit of URI Ventures (formerly, the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation).

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