Letter: Government, communities must continue to work together to help local businesses

COVID-19 has had ripple effects throughout our lives. From family holidays over Zoom to masks and hand sanitizers everywhere we go, there’s no escaping how the pandemic has shaped our existence and will continue to do so moving forward.

Nowhere are the effects more present than in the workplace. Businesses continue to offer remote work options when they can and workers are taking advantage of the shift to explore different living options. Meanwhile, the service industry is finding it harder and harder to hire workers. This reality presents both opportunities and challenges.

As we move forward, elected officials and business leaders must work together to create policies that reflect this new normal and work for the Geneva community and others like it.

Over the last unprecedented year and a half, state government has stepped up in a big way to assist small businesses through the Business Interruption Grants program and Small Business Emergency Loan Fund among a number of other programs. While these incentives were critical for helping businesses stay on their feet, we must look forward toward our new normal.

That means extending and expanding new loan and grant programs to businesses that are working to retool their technology infrastructure in the remote work era. And with workers able to relocate anywhere in the country, we must make our communities places that will be a draw. Recent mixed-use development projects such as the Rock Run Crossings in neighboring Joliet point the way forward for how Chicagoland cities can draw remote workers. State government must work to pass common sense regulations, infrastructure investments and incentives to continue these developments.

But in addition to these incentives, we must address the worker shortage that is leaving too many of our businesses shorthanded, with over 90% of state and local Chambers of Commerce saying shortages are holding back local economies. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report lays out a clear roadmap for expanding our workforce to meet the needs of our small businesses. At the state government level, we can take further steps to invest in education and job training, remove barriers to entering the workforce, and grow our population by ensuring Illinois is a welcoming state for everyone.

The rise of telework and the booming post-pandemic economy can be a win-win-win for workers, businesses and the Geneva community— if our elected officials are able to seize the moment and pass these common sense policies. We are committed to working together to ensure exactly that happens so our new normal can work for everybody throughout Illinois.

State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora)

Paula Schmidt, President

Geneva Chamber of Commerce