Mr. Gheorghe Rizoiu, General manager of the Chamber of Comerce Vâlcea, answered our questions about the impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on local businesses
1) How has the coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted local businesses? We are going through a very difficult time, not only us, but states around the world. This has an important impact on the national and local economy. The economic impact of the coronavirus crisis it is felt different from one industrial sector to another and from one enterprise to another. It depends on a number of factors, including the ability to adapt to disruptions on the chain supply, the existence of stocks or dependence on the production processes "just in time". 2) Which areas were most affected? The most affected local economic sector by the pandemic, is tourism. What saved us somewhat is the spa tourism where the activity continued on the one hand, and the support provided by the government on the other hand. 3) How prepared were businesses, from a continuity perspective, to manage disasters such as COVID-19? It depends on each sector, on each company and on how they have been able to use this time for almost a year, in creating a vision of sustainable development. What can I say is that our country went through a difficult situation from an economic point of view in 2008, but now it seems to have acted better. The government's policy has been to encourage full investment. We'll see what the results are.
4) What kind of support was set by local authorities/the government? The largest local investment during the pandemic is the manufacturer of thermal insulation panels TOPANEL from Râmnicu Vâlcea, which achieved a turnover of over 15% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Another investment is in Drăgășani. The CEO of Coșkunöz Holding invested in December 2020 24 million euros in a factory that will produce parts for the next DACIA model to be launched by Renault. Chimcomplex, a regional chemical company with a turnover of over 260 million euros in 2019, completed in 2020 an investment of 35 million euros that provided 200 jobs. There are other smaller investments in Roești, Berislăvești, Dănicei, Popești, Lăpușata, all with European money in: health, rehabilitation of schools, sewage treatment plants, natural gas projects (each being in different stages of implementation).
5) What impact will the crisis have on business continuity plans? As I said before, it depends on each company, the vision and the capacity to adapt at the situation. For many business owners, the Coronavirus pandemic came on fast and hard. Most business owners weren't prepared for the directives that followed once COVID-19 took hold—mandatory storefront closures, consumer lockdowns - quick operational shifts were needed to accommodate social distancing and contactless transactions. Not all business owners, however, were impacted equally. Firms that had a business continuity plan in place were better able to survive the adverse effects of COVID-19. Those that took steps to implement a crisis management plan not only better adapted to the global crisis but have also found themselves more resilient as they forge on in an uncertain economy.
6) When do you predict things will get back to the “new normal”? The reality, though, depends much on how you define "normal." And, if enough Romanian step up for the vaccine, it might not be as depressing as you think. At the end of April 2021, the vaccination rate on Vâlcea county is 25 % of the population. This is a good sign for the local businesses. Experts say fall could become the season of a "new normal" in which the world slowly reopens and people will reconnect but with masks, routine testing and possibly even vaccine cards to allow them enter movie theaters or restaurants. When times are tough, it’s only natural to wish for a return to normality. But we live in a complex and interdependent world, so nothing is ever quite the same as before, even after the storm has passed. What exactly the new normal will look like is uncertain.
people strikes against the restrictions pro-Covid
7) What advice do you have for local business owners? In today’s economy, the risks of a structural crises are big. If retailers, hospitality and travel companies are allowed to go bankrupt, the rebuilding costs will be huge and the impact on communities will be long-lasting. This is why the governments are spending on furlough and loan schemes to keep such businesses going. But even with these generous schemes, some businesses will perish. While a few companies have pledged to allow virtual working to continue post-pandemic, most are gearing up for a hybrid model, with people working from home maybe half the time, and careful consideration being given to getting the most out of their time together in the office. To adapt, small businesses have to do some adjustments that include the following: a) Using contactless deliveries to make their services available; b) Asking employees to learn new skills to support changes to the business models; c) Adopting new revenue streams, such as converting production lines to make hand sanitizer, which is in high demand; d) Instituting new safety measures, such as installing Plexiglas barriers between staff and customers; e) Adopting new technology processes. There have been obvious changes in consumer behavior since the pandemic started, and while some are clearly temporary (I don’t want to meet forever my friends for a drink over Zoom – I want to go to the restaurant) others are likely to endure because they are efficient like online shopping, so the shops must take tis in consideration as a part of their future marketing plans. I must say, at the end, that small-business owners are confident that their business will be better prepared to handle a crisis like COVID-19 if it occurred in the future.