corona virus in shades of brown
ACEC survey shows 88 percent of responding firms applied for PPP through SBA.

Engineering firm leaders in the United States now believe a “return to normal” for their businesses will take between 12 to 18 months, an increase compared to nearly a month ago, according to the latest Research Institute Business Impact Survey from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).

“The sixth wave of the business impact survey continues to see the engineering industry grapple with the effects of the pandemic with a greater number of firm leaders feeling less optimistic about a quick return to normal for their businesses,” ACEC Research Institute Chair John Carrato said. “Thankfully, we are seeing a significant number of engineering firms of various sizes securing Payback Protection Program (PPP) loans, which are essential to maintaining cash flow during the economic downturn."

The survey was conducted May 5-6 with 492 engineering firm leaders nationwide responding. Results show firm leaders are now less optimistic—27 percent—about a “return to normal” within six months compared to 37 percent a month ago. More firms now believe it will take 12 to 18 months for a return to normal than last month (36 percent versus 27 percent).

Engineering firms continue to implement cost reductions as a result of COVID-19 impacting finances. Top actions remain freezing nonessential purchases (46 percent), speeding up collections (39 percent) and freezing salary/pay increases (33 percent).

The survey also shows that nearly nine out of 10 engineering firms (88 percent) applied for the PPP through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Nearly all (94 percent) say they were approved. Among firms whose application was approved, 84 percent have already received the funds.

“The SBA Paycheck Protection Program has been a much-needed infusion of capital for U.S. engineering firms, which has helped limit staff cuts and keep the industry primed to serve as the nation grinds toward recovery,” ACEC President & CEO Linda Bauer Darr said.

The vast majority of firms plan to implement numerous safety measures once they reopen their offices, the survey results confirmed. Top measures remain maintaining social distancing (95 percent) and allowing staff to work remotely to care for others (85 percent).