Crucial time for politicians and small business community to collaborate

Small businesses have faced extraordinary challenges since the onset of the pandemic.

First, they had to absorb the initial shock of the devastating shutdowns and scramble to obtain PPP loans. They subsequently had to face mitigations and changes in consumer behavior resulting from new waves of the pandemic.

The Great Resignation and supply chain disruptions became the next challenges for the small business community. Now rising inflation has created additional hurdles for small businesses still attempting to navigate a workforce shortage permeating through almost all industries and areas.

What does the small business community need from policymakers over two years after the onset of the pandemic? How can Illinois politicians change the perception that our state is a difficult place to own and operate a small business?

Further, what actions can politicians take to retain small businesses and entice others to consider relocating to the Land of Lincoln?

These are crucial questions for both small business owners and politicians to consider because collaboration will be necessary to support the small business community and improve the Illinois economy.

Prioritizing the small business community

Politicians must engage and work in tandem with the small business community during these uncertain times. Indeed, small business owners should not feel that passing legislation that supports small businesses is a monumental lift. Illinois politicians must prioritize the small businesses that drive our economy.

In the past, several legislative cycles may have been needed to pass policies that support the small business community. Given the current challenges facing small businesses, however, they can no longer wait for legislators to make this legislation a priority. While politicians should always be proactively pushing a small business agenda that will support the backbone of our economy, this has never been more important given the difficulties and uncertainty facing small businesses.

Changing the narrative

Other states drive the narrative that Illinois is a difficult place to own and operate a business. Certainly, they have an interest in poaching our businesses because that can enhance their economy and result in more tax revenue.

Illinois must fight back with more than public celebrations when a large corporation decides to relocate to our state. These corporate relocations go both ways. You also rarely see a small-business owner overly excited over a corporate relocation unless it happens to have a direct impact on their business.

Illinois policymakers should move public policies that support small and local businesses. They should then spend as much time talking about how these policies will support small businesses and our economy as possible. Small business advocacy groups should do their part to amplify the message. Through collaboration, policymakers and the small business community can enact impactful policies and improve the perception of Illinois small business climate.

Small businesses are the engine that drive our economy. However, this has been a remarkably tough period for many of these important job creators. With the frequent emergence of new challenges, the small business community is not out of the woods.

There has never been a more crucial time for small business owners and advocates to engage policymakers. In turn, there has never been a more important time for policymakers to embrace the small business community, prioritize their issues, enact policies that will support small businesses and speak very publicly about these efforts.

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

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