With gyms, bars and dine-in portions of restaurants shuttered for weeks, business owners in Central Texas have had to dramatically shift operations or temporarily close in response to COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

However, Gov. Greg Abbott announced April 17 a plan to gradually ease coronavirus-related restrictions. Looking toward the future, questions remain, including: What is next for the local business community?

“We don’t know how coming back to business is going to look,” said Jason Ball, the Round Rock Chamber's president and CEO. “We are very cognizant that there are concerns and fears about what that transition might look like.”

In an effort to gauge questions about the road ahead, leaders from across Williamson County are seeking business owners’ perspectives through an online survey that launched April 17.

“We want to have a better understanding of what potential challenges businesses will have once they are cleared to return to work,” said Jim Johnson, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce's president and CEO. “And we want to know how we can properly communicate those concerns and challenges to our elected officials.”

The information-gathering effort is a collaborative one involving area city governments, such as Cedar Park and Round Rock; chambers of commerce, including for Cedar Park, Georgetown, Hutto and Round Rock; Williamson County; the Leander Economic Development Group; and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area.

“The point of this survey is that we are doing this collectively throughout the county,” Johnson said. “The decisions that are being made right now are at the county and state level. By working together, we can provide better information back to the county and state.”

The 37-question survey is expected to take 10 minutes or less to complete, Ball said. The survey is open to any business that has an operation in Williamson County.

“We are interested to see some of the real-time feedback on what business needs currently are and what they think they are going to be,” said Tony Moline, the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce's president and CEO. “Over the last several weeks, it’s been daily and weekly changes to their business models. We want to know what they need to get back up and operational as quickly as possible.”

The group is aiming for a “meaningful sample set” of somewhere between 300-500 responses, Ball said, from businesses across the county that represent a diversity of sizes and industries.

“A lot of this was developed with the small restaurants, bars and local hair salons in mind, but there are perspectives we’ll need from larger businesses and industries as well,” Ball said. “They may have been able to continue operations working remotely, but as they try to spin back to normal times, they might have some unique considerations as well.”

Johnson said he hopes the data collected will create a clear picture about shared concerns across Williamson County to help the entire business community get back up to speed as restrictions lift.

“As we’ve seen with COVID-19, the virus knows no boundaries,” Moline said. “This survey is not just about Cedar Park or Georgetown or Round Rock alone; it’s about making sure we’re all doing our part to make sure that all businesses in our area are doing well.”

Business owners can respond to the survey here.