Illinois lawmakers investigate barriers to Black business development | State & Regional

“Clearly COVID has demonstrated the tremendous need, like right now, what we’re doing right now, connecting through broadband, to have a conversation with our state support mechanisms,” he said.

Even in Chicago, he said, many homes and businesses are not online because broadband technology is not available, which severely limits their ability to participate in an online economy.

“For those that don’t know, going back to what was is no longer an option,” Montgomery said. “There is no good old days. Those days are gone forever.”

Much of the focus of Thursday’s hearing was on state government, and its ability to spur business development through its own contracting and purchasing policies.

“We must look at this economy moving forward and recognize that inside of a $40 billion state of Illinois budget, how is every department … spending that money with their constituents, Black constituents, so that they can be full participants in providing goods and services to the state of Illinois,” Montgomery said.

Christyn Freeman, secretary of the Bronzeville Chamber of Commerce on the south side of Chicago and cofounder of a group called the Economic Justice League, said many Black-owned businesses have trouble tapping into markets like state contracting and vending, or even the federal Payroll Protection Program, because they operate in what she called the “shadow economy.”

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