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OPINION: NY’s local economies at risk in Congress’ crusade against tech

By Stacey Duncan


Anti-tech legislation is back in Congress and that’s bad news for New York’s local economies.

 Small businesses and startups increasingly rely on digital platforms to succeed, and large technology companies provide the foundations critical to our virtual and literal “Main Streets” as we look to our economic future. Instead of engaging in populist “big is bad” political posturing, Congress must acknowledge that anti-tech legislation is wrong for the future of our country’s local economies. During a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Attorney General Merrick Garland expressed the Department of Justice’s continued support for the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a piece of misguided legislation that will hobble America’s largest tech companies and has harmful implications for small businesses that rely on technology to survive. 

 Indeed, experts point to the complexities and potential pitfalls of the approach taken by this bill and others like it. As such, Garland and our elected officials in Washington, D.C. — including President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — should be wary of supporting anti-innovation bills, especially as competition with China accelerates. Senator Schumer must understand the important role that large technology companies play in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the future of “Main Street America.” Without the vital services these platforms provide, the future of places like the greater Binghamton area remains uncertain. Legislators must take a careful and nuanced approach to any laws attempting to regulate large technology companies.

 During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers stayed home and ordered through their phones. Local merchants moved their services online and found new ways to compete and reach customers outside of their immediate locations. Today, it is clear how vital technology platforms are for keeping small businesses open and competitive. Digital marketplaces, social media, and productivity tools have kept businesses thriving in the face of uncertainty. During the 2020 holiday season, local shoppers took advantage of venues like Bring Broome Home, a concentrated listing of Broome County retailers whose online presence allowed area residents to opt to spend their money locally and help small family businesses weather the economic uncertainties of the pandemic. 

 A recent study by startup advocacy organization Engine explores the role of free and low-cost digital services. It finds that 100 percent of startups employ three or more digital services provided by large technology companies. Entrepreneurs in the Southern Tier and throughout western and upstate New York are key to building the 21st-century economy. Locally, the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator is home to 35 startups, ranging from virtual reality to clean-energy initiatives and high-tech video-production companies. The bills under consideration in Congress threaten to upend the technology ecosystem that entrepreneurs rely on. The platforms, robust economic resources, and opportunities critical to launching and empowering startups and small businesses are all at risk if the anti-tech movement has its way. Research finds that if passed into law, the anti-tech bills would reduce small-business revenues by $500 billion in the first five years after enactment.

Many small businesses, including those that make up Binghamton’s vibrant minority and immigrant-owned business community, could not scale their operations without digital platforms. They rely on social media and online marketplaces, and work with app developers. Marketing, payment processing, and cybersecurity are all services they access through major technology platforms. These small businesses include shops that introduce local and online customers to products and services that both celebrate and welcome diversity. They enrich our community and strengthen the region’s economic and cultural landscape. 

Today, our region is attracting high earners working remotely and is home to entrepreneurs changing the game in cutting-edge technology. These companies make everything from essential components for various medical uses to developing lithium batteries that will help power the clean-energy future to keep the U.S. competitive in the global marketplace. Their collective vision can only be fully realized if elected officials support innovation and investment in technology. This includes investments from the same digital platforms that Congress is poised to dismantle.            

Stacey Duncan is the CEO of the Leadership Alliance, a partnership between The Agency and the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce to lead economic, business and community development in the Greater Binghamton area.