More than half of small businesses in Downtown Long Beach are in recovery mode—with plans to expand their operations even further this year—despite challenges posed by public safety issues and other concerns, according to the results of an annual survey conducted by the Downtown Long Beach Alliance.

More than 250 business owners participated in the phone-based study conducted by the independent ISA Corporation between Jan. 3 and Feb. 28. Direct feedback on hiring, recruiting, workplace requirements and other factors influencing Downtown’s business community was collected, with the full results to be shared in the DLBA’s annual Economic Profile on April 25.

“Post-pandemic optimism among Downtown’s small business owners is growing, and that really speaks to the recovery and health of the independent shops that are the backbone of our local economy,” said DLBA COO Broc Coward.

Full economic recovery is expected to be a long process, however, and business owners in Downtown Long Beach have—over the past two years—consistently pointed to the critical need to address pressing issues of hiring and retaining employees, permitting processes, quality of life issues and public safety.

“We are listening, and we can see first-hand and understand that there are some key issues impacting Downtown,” Coward said. “DLBA is driven to help address those issues and will continue to be part of helping to find solutions in partnership with the City of Long Beach and other local agencies and businesses.”

Key 2022 survey findings included:

  • 53% of business owners expect their business to expand this year, and 63% of businesses with multiple locations expect their business to expand this year
  • 20% of businesses reported having more employees now than they did last year
  • 60% of businesses have five employees or less, making small businesses the majority of businesses Downtown
  • 53% of business owners reported that less than 10% of their employees live Downtown
  • 41% of businesses Downtown have been in operation for 10 or more years, and 9% of businesses have been open for less than a year
  •  66% of operators, including office-based businesses, do not plan to downsize or otherwise change their physical workspaces
  • 57% of businesses reported being able to recruit skilled workers locally, which was down from 61% the year before
  • 58% of businesses are concerned about public safety Downtown, which is up from 49% the previous year
  • Concerns about homelessness and safety are up, with 38% of open comments being about those issues; and another 23% of open comments were submitted about permitting issues, taxes and the need to streamline various ordinances.

Earlier this year, DLBA implemented several additional initiatives to address safety concerns. These included adding extra Safety Ambassadors to routes especially during evening hours, collaborating with the Long Beach Police department to inform businesses and residents on how to avoid being targets of crime, and promoting the availability of friendly escorts by Ambassadors to assist workers, residents, visitors and customers in the business district seven days a week (call 562-244-1365 to contact a Safety Ambassador).

DLBA also developed a free Quality of Life Response Guide to help small businesses navigate the challenges sometimes posed when engaging persons experiencing homelessness and/or suffering from mental health issues.