The challenges facing Evanston mirror those facing most communities around the state and, by extension, the country. It’s one of the reasons why I’m concerned that our policymakers in Washington – including members of our Illinois delegation – are focusing so heavily on implementing anti-innovation policies against America’s tech companies that could make it harder for our business community to recover.
When the pandemic shuttered storefronts and restaurants across the state, it drastically transformed Evanston’s small business community. A trip down Sherman Avenue reveals an uncomfortable reality about the state of our downtown and the businesses that call it home: The pandemic recovery is still very much underway.
In the wake of the shutdowns, technology platforms enabled Evanstonians to keep our community spirit alive. Technology provided pathways for us to operate our businesses virtually, engage with our friends and families, and access the products and services we needed to keep our homes and schools running.
During this time, I launched a Facebook group to help connect residents with merchants, artists and nonprofits in our community. This group is still considered a vital resource for our small-business community as well as our locally owned restaurants, many of which are suffering from fewer customers combined with freight and supply chain challenges, labor shortages and downtown parking fees.
Evanston’s small-business owners count on easy and affordable access to tech platforms to power their marketing, e-commerce, point-of-sale software, payroll, data security and more. For Yun Park of Soapie’s Cleaners, it was an online fundraiser that has helped aid in her recovery after she was injured in a recent hit-and-run incident. For the owners of Soul & Smoke, it’s tech that helps power awareness about their 24-hour community fridge providing no-cost meals to those in need. The positive impact of technology and innovation in our Evanston community is incalculable.
Our community and others like it need our lawmakers to think deeply about the unintended consequences of any regulations that would handcuff America’s technology leaders. These companies will continue to play an indispensable role in our ongoing pandemic recovery while ensuring that our future is filled with the kind of innovation that fuels economic growth and equitable opportunity.
Our Illinois delegation has an opportunity to lead the way on smart tech policy solutions that strengthen and support our small businesses and communities. I hope they take it.
founder of Our Evanston magazine
and the Evanston Shops, Salons and Studios Facebook group