Florida has long been known as one of the most business-friendly state in the nation. Our Legislature, along with Gov. Ron DeSantis, have paved t
Florida has long been known as one of the most business-friendly state in the nation. Our Legislature, along with Gov. Ron DeSantis, have paved the way for small businesses to be successful.
According to data from the Florida Small Business Development Center Network, our state in 2019 was home to 2.5 million small businesses that comprised 99.8 percent of all business in the state. When our communities were hit with an unprecedented pandemic, our leaders went straight to work to ensure Florida’s robust small business community would survive.
Our leaders have made it clear from the start that rebuilding Florida’s economy is a priority as we move forward. It’s support like this that has given small businesses the boost they needed during a difficult time. Now, it’s time to ensure we don’t inadvertently hurt the very businesses we set out to support.
Technology issues will be a key topic of this year’s legislative session and I hope our leaders will pursue ways to protect the interest of Floridians and look for collaborative ways to ensure small businesses can continue to thrive.
As we continue to navigate the economic hurdles resulting from the pandemic, many businesses have taken a look at their business models and have diversified into digital spaces. In fact, the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce recently released recommendations to curb financial downturns encouraging businesses to new look at new growth strategies such as e-commerce and other digital tools and platforms.
Digital tools allow businesses to reach their customers, make connections and sell their products during a time where lockdowns and social-distancing efforts have become a reality. Virtual marketplaces and public squares support businesses by offering a means to stay in touch with potential patrons, while reminding existing customers why they appreciate a local brand or business.
Even customers who might not be in the market for goods can admire a business from behind a screen, keeping them top of mind for when customers are ready to purchase a product or service. All over the state, small business owners considered their options and found digital tools to be accessible, necessary and, ultimately, a main driver of revenue.
Before the pandemic, digital tools were helpful. Now, they have become essential tools for a business’ ability to keep its doors open while keeping their customers and employees safe. A report by the Connected Commerce Council found 40 percent of businesses rely on digital tools to meet new customers and 70 percent of those that used digital tools during the pandemic found them to be “helpful.” While these statistics support the need to expand Florida’s relationships with technology companies, the report also found at least 80 percent of businesses want to learn how to use digital tools and incorporate them into their strategies.
Now, more than ever, our leaders should work to foster a positive relationship with technology companies. Florida’s small businesses, and the communities they uplift around the state, depend on it.
Julio Fuentes is the president of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.