Improving the Illinois narrative

Election season has been and regrettably, will remain abrasive and divisive.

Candidates from both parties will throw stones at one another, and the perception of our state will sustain collateral damage. Negative advertisements will air on radio, television and on social media. They will taint the image of the candidates, thereby eroding the confidence the winners will do their jobs well.

There is nothing that can be done to curtail this negative advertising because politicians believe it works and they want to prevail. However, there is already a perception that Illinois is a difficult place to own and grow a business. Those on the campaign trail must counter that narrative while politicians take concrete steps to improve our economic outlook.

Public safety

There has been a tragic number of shootings in Chicago, and public safety has become a pressing matter in the Chicago area. These issues have received significant coverage by the media. Crime and public safety concerns must be promptly and publicly addressed so business owners, and their employees feel safe in Chicago and nearby suburbs.

While improving public safety will require a multifaceted approach, the SBAC has advocated for policies that will improve public safety, support small businesses and revitalize struggling commercial corridors.

Politicians should take proactive measures to reduce vacancies in neighborhood business districts. This will create commerce and decrease criminal activity. Policymakers should also pass legislation that incentivizes small businesses to hire formerly incarcerated citizens. Creating employment opportunities for citizens returning from incarceration will increase public safety while supporting small businesses struggling to hire employees.

Property taxes

Illinois small businesses are significantly impacted by property taxes. Policymakers must stop talking about stabilizing and reducing these taxes.

They must take concrete measures to address the issue now. There has been state legislation filed which if passed, will allow voters to consolidate governmental entities and school districts. This could reduce costs and lower property taxes. Policymakers should enact this legislation as promptly as possible.

Opportunities in a changing economy

The pandemic has disrupted and altered the economy in profound ways. Some former commuters will not return to the office on a full-time basis.

A robust number of new entrepreneurs have started businesses. The Great Resignation has highlighted the need for a more robust workforce.

Illinois can capitalize on the opportunities associated with our changing economy. Politicians can pass legislation that allows folks with occupational licenses in other states to start businesses or work more easily in Illinois.

State and local politicians can reduce red tape for Illinois entrepreneurs, making it easier for them to work from home and open storefront businesses. Policymakers should engage with the small business community and enact policies that will support small businesses during these changing times.

Positive actions and narrative

Politicians should take prompt action to support the small business community and publicize the measures they are taking.

They should be cognizant that their words on the campaign trail will have an impact after the elections conclude.

Politicians, during and after the election, should present a positive narrative focused on all our great state has to offer. They should be transparent about the challenges facing Illinois but also, tackle those challenges and talk publicly about the actions being taken.

There has never been a more important time for all politicians, regardless of their political affiliation, to be public advocates for our state.

• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

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