Across America, the top issue on many minds as 2020 comes to a close is the economy. Iowa is no different — for many Iowans, it is their primary concern, second only to the coronavirus pandemic. It isn’t hard to see how the two are linked. Before COVID-19, Iowa’s trajectory for economic growth was more promising than ever. But the pandemic has upended everything about how we live, including how we do business.
It isn’t all bad news, though — Iowa is uniquely positioned to make the most of this moment. In recent years, we’ve seen some of the world’s biggest tech companies make Iowa their home, and entrepreneurs and exciting new businesses remain core drivers of innovation and economic growth in communities across the state. An increasingly digital mindset was paying off well before the pandemic. Still, even more so now as small and medium-sized businesses have fallen back on a “digital safety net” of tools and strategies to survive over the past few months.
That digital fail-safe can be traced back to Iowa’s tech companies helping to create the new toolbox for operating in the internet age. Adopting new methods of doing business has included everything from online ordering and delivery services for restaurants and the expansion of e-commerce and shipping logistics for retail. In ways big and small, the technology that has its roots in Iowa has kept local businesses resilient despite all the challenges 2020 has thrown at them.
While a lot of larger businesses and industries in Iowa were well-positioned to make the transition from physical to digital pre-COVID, some of the most remarkable innovations have come from the areas we might not expect — mom and pop businesses, K-12 education, even local government. That’s great news for everybody — the barriers to entry have never been lower for those looking to leverage technology to adapt to changing circumstances.
At the Technology Association of Iowa, we believe every Iowa company is a technology company. We’re dedicated to helping foster new relationships and empowering businesses of all sizes to invest in Iowa’s innovation ecosystem. But just like many small businesses have learned over the past few months, we can’t go it alone. We need robust support for innovation and the digitization of business from our representatives at every level. Our lawmakers must understand the critical role technology has played over the past few months and the role it will play in building back a strong economy that works for all of us — small business owners, the customers who patronize them, and the state as a whole.
With 2020 nearly behind us, it’s time to look forward and envision a brighter future. As this pandemic continues, I hope that our representatives in Congress and the statehouse will work to ensure all Iowans have quality broadband access connecting them to the digital tools that move their businesses forward, and won’t create policy that limits employers and small business owners using digital technologies to maintain responsible and safe operations. We put our faith in policymakers at the ballot box in November, and now it’s time for them to show us that they understand the mandate to help facilitate a robust, technology-driven economic rebound.
Brian Waller is president of the Technology Association of Iowa.