WASHINGTON, D.C. – A majority of U.S. engineering firm leaders report their businesses are engaging in more COVID-19 pandemic response and are seeing other areas of their businesses outperforming today compared to just a few weeks ago, the latest ACEC Research Institute Business Impact Survey 7 reveals.
Results show that 16% of engineering firms are now engaged in COVID-19 pandemic response compared to only 8% in March. Strikingly, almost one fourth of firms surveyed (22%) report having business areas that are outperforming today compared to 12% in the Institute’s fifth survey on April 23rd.
The survey also found that opinion among firm leaders is split when it comes to which sector will recover first, with 36% of firms feeling that public engineering projects will recover quickly than private sector projects (26%).
“The number of firms reporting growth in their businesses is encouraging and could signal an economic reawakening,” said ACEC Research Institute Board Chair John Carrato. “Despite pessimism on how quickly we will feel comfortable in the ‘new normal,’ engineering firms are still securing work and expanding into areas of COVID-19 response. This is a good indication of just how resilient our industry is to uncertainty. We still need to be wary about the loss of revenue being suffered by state and local governments though. There is often a lag before our industry feels the impact.”
Although there appears to be optimism when it comes to business performance, there is a growing number of executives (47%) who feel that a “return to normal” will take 12 to 18 months compared to earlier surveys. This sentiment is reflected in the statistics related to business travel, where the survey found that allowing travel by car for in-person client meetings in the next six months (83%) is significantly more popular than allowing travel by air (60%).
The Institute’s new survey found that perceptions of the CARES Act are at their highest level (75%) since early April. This statistic reinforces the popularity of the Paycheck Protection Program. Recent Institute survey results confirmed that nearly all engineering firms which applied to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) (94%) were approved. New results reveal that 71% say they will be able to use the PPP loan within the mandated eight-week forgiveness window, compared to nearly three of 10 (29%) which will not be able to meet the deadline or are not sure.
At the same time, a strong majority (79%) do say extending the PPP Loan Forgiveness window from eight weeks to between 16-24 weeks would have a positive impact on their firms. On May 28th, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act of 2020, which extends from eight weeks to 24 weeks the time PPP loan participants have to spend their loan funds. Similar legislation is awaiting action in the Senate.
Click here to view the executive summary of the survey.