Survey results from 60-100 business owners in the Lake Houston area seem to show the area is wading the coronavirus pandemic better than some cities across the state, an expert said.

The Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce and Lake Houston Area Economic Development Partnership sent out the Texas Business Survey on Aug. 27 to business owners and managers. The survey was part of a partnership with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and 16 other communities across the state.

Business owners and managers in six Lake Houston-area ZIP codes—77044, 77338, 77339, 77345, 77346 and 77396—were asked to complete the survey by Sept. 9. The survey results from 60-100 local businesses showed 74% of them have fully reopened, while 26% are still on reduced hours.

Jim Lee, survey lead and economics professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said via email that although Lake Houston-area businesses saw an average of 27% revenue loss during the pandemic, the local business community has shown unexpected resilience compared to other areas that participated in the survey.

In fact, Lee said the area's high percentage of retail and hospitality jobs should have made the Lake Houston area more vulnerable to the pandemic, as the industries took large financial hits in April amid statewide and local stay-at-home orders.

"The inherent business makeup of the Lake Houston area, with relatively more businesses more directly impacted by the pandemic, should not make the area more resilient than other areas," he said. "In fact, the area should have been more vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact instead."

Instead, other factors may have helped businesses survive, Lee said. Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as many businesses owners reporting a positive outlook on the future may have contributed to the area's resilience, he said. Of the businesses that participated in the survey, 47% received SBA Paycheck Protection Program loans, and 28% received SBA Employment Injury Disaster Loans.

Despite the area's resilience, the survey showed that 19% of businesses anticipate a staff reduction in the next three months, while 16% anticipate a reduction in the next six months. The top concern moving forward is the potential for another COVID-19 outbreak, per survey results.

LHEDP President Mark Mitchell said the results will help the LHEDP and the chamber develop future programs to help build strength, much like the entities did after Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017.

“The next step for us is to take this data and start using that same Harvey model and building that same resiliency infrastructure from there,” he said.