The Williamson County coalition, comprised by cities, chambers of commerce and economic entities throughout the county, released its Williamson County Business Survey findings April 30. The survey, conducted from April 17-24, received responses from more than 700 businesses across Williamson County on financial concerns, operational statuses and reopening preparedness.

In a phone call with Community Impact Newspaper, Round Rock Chamber President and CEO Jason Ball discussed the survey's key findings and how it will assist the chamber in continually supporting small businesses moving forward.

"I think that the survey revealed that we do have a ticking clock of sorts," Ball said.

In the next four weeks, most survey respondents said they will have sufficient funds to cover their expenses, Ball said. But according to the the data analysis, more than 18% of businesses expect they will be unable to pay their bills in the next month. That number of businesses, Ball said, could potentially increase as time passes, making chamber efforts such as Round Rock Cares all the more important.

Community Impact Newspaper: Were there any findings [from the survey] that surprised you or that you hadn't anticipated seeing?

Jason Ball: As I look at both the data and some of the comments—I think businesses generally had an understanding of why we needed to go into such restrictive measures. And there was a general understanding of that, but at the same time it was combined with a deep frustration about how that had impacted them and an understandable amount of concern about what does the future look like. It was really those frustrations and concerns that led us to make the observations and recommendations for policy makers that we did. I don't think that was something that I hadn't necessarily expected to include in a survey report. But there were some fairly clear terms that came out and I think that may end up being the most useful part of it.

I think the only other thing I'd add to that is—it was a bit of a surprise to have such a decisive majority with 70% indicating that they do feel it is safe to begin, to return to work. I think that's an indication, at least from the market, that the general strategic approach that the governor has began to take this week is very much on the wavelength of what we're hearing from the broader business community. A measured approach, a phased approach, not just jumping right into the deep end of the pool. Also in an understanding that we're going to need to continue forward with testing in place in order to assure businesses and employees are able to have a safe environment for everybody.

Community Impact Newspaper: One of the things I was curious about were the regional considerations. When you're looking at Williamson County as a whole, that's a huge breadth of cities. There are plenty of businesses in Williamson County that operate throughout Central Texas and outside the county. From your perspective, what are the thoughts you had about those regional considerations?

Jason Ball: Stay home, stay safe orders were coming out, and I think policy makers at both county and city levels did a good job of communicating with each other. This isn't necessarily a point of criticism, but where those orders differed, it did cause an increased amount of concern [from businesses]—what one set of communities was doing versus another set of communities. We share so much economic activity across these borders that are sometimes less than five miles away from us. It really makes sense that approaches need to have a regional perspective, and otherwise you're just going to get confusion and frustration as these roll out. And so that regional approach, I think it's going to be really important nationally for everyone to embrace as we unwind from this.

Community Impact Newspaper: From the chamber's perspective with these findings, are there any plans or ideas you've gotten from [the survey results] that you're looking to implement in chamber strategies for small businesses moving forward?

Jason Ball: We're still looking at that. And that's been an ongoing process for the past six to eight weeks now. I think our team always has some ideas about what we need to be paying attention to here, but things have continued to evolve so quickly. Chambers are operating in an environment right now where we need to enact something that was an idea just two days ago and get it done within a week. And so I anticipate we'll have some additional recommendations that are coming from the county. We intend to be engaged in those. Certainly, the county receiving a substantial amount of money from CARES Act, that is going to be important. This chamber and this business community is going to be engaged in those, and then supporting the city as well. So yes, I am sure this data is going to continue to inform what many of our programs are doing into the coming months.