Opinion: California must welcome technology growth and investment. Our economic recovery depends on it.


Opinion: California must welcome technology growth and investment. Our economic recovery depends on it.

Rowten is CEO and president of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce. He lives in San Diego.

It is difficult to understate the role that digital technologies have played in supporting our communities this past year. A complete pivot to virtual communication in our personal and professional relationships and a shift away from in-person commerce exposed just how essential digital platforms have become to our new lives. As new and returning lawmakers take office this year, one story that must be told is that of the small business owner here in Southern California who has demonstrated incredible resiliency with the support of digital platforms.

2021 has begun with the promise of a robust vaccination effort and a return to our pre-pandemic lives. We are also experiencing a considerable shake-up in our political leadership in California, offering yet another opportunity to re-focus on recovery. We are hopeful that new political leadership in California — including Southern California native Alex Padilla, recently appointed to the U.S. Senate — will demonstrate an appreciation for the homegrown innovators who have supported our state and national economy through one of the most challenging years in our lifetimes.

We provide this platform for community commentary free of charge. Thank you to all the Union-Tribune subscribers whose support makes our journalism possible. If you are not a subscriber, please consider becoming one today.

Resiliency in the small business community is nothing new. Locally owned and operated businesses across the San Diego area have always taken the challenges that come with running a small business head-on. But this past year, as we all know too well, was different.

With in-person commerce decimated as the pandemic broke out and as restrictions were placed on local businesses, the need to quickly pivot was crucial. Thankfully, there are a host of platforms easily accessible to today’s small business owner that greased the gears. Zoom and other video conferencing options became a fixture in all of our lives, various social media platforms kept businesses connected with their customers, and surging use of digital advertising platforms allowed businesses to reach consumers where they are. Maintaining an online presence became more important than ever before, as businesses worked to keep their customers informed on online purchasing options, hours, safety protocols and more.

These adjustments defined small business operations this past year, but they are not likely to go away. The reality is that many consumer habits will remain permanently changed. Of course, we hope that a successful vaccination effort and widespread reopening of indoor commercial activity will lead our communities to return to in-person shopping and dining. But after a year of online shopping, food delivery and other virtual means of purchasing and communication, we must understand that many consumers will not rush back to their old habits. Sustained digitalization within the small business community will be essential to operations for years to come.

Continued changes to the operations of small business owners must be accompanied by flexibility and understanding among political leaders about the platforms that made these necessary changes possible. Now more than ever, it’s important that policies surrounding technology issues reflect the critical nature of technology platforms for today’s small business owner. But lawmakers and other political leaders should also recognize the contributions that technology has delivered at all levels of our economy.

San Diego has been a case study for the value of a diversifying 21st-century economy over the past decade as we continue to embrace the value of technology across sectors. There is an incredible level of innovation and investment taking place within the aerospace and maritime industries, life sciences sector and environmental technology space, just to name a few areas. And our startup community continues to grow as talent and capital are increasingly drawn to the region. No doubt, technology will remain a critical thread across San Diego’s patchwork economy.

On technology policy issues, we understand the direction that the political and rhetorical winds are trending among many atop our political leadership, as evidenced by an increasingly anti-technology sentiment from Washington to Sacramento. But I would encourage all elected officials to consider the timing of attacks against technology companies. Is this really the time to go after our digital infrastructure, and the companies actively providing services that are keeping families connected, small businesses operational and communities sustained through the pandemic?

As our state’s evolving collection of political leaders considers their posture on technology issues, it is imperative they signal that growth and investment are welcome in our state. Our economic recovery — at all levels — depends on an embrace of the technologies that have so far sustained us this past year.




Source link