Speaker 1 Welcome to Talking Cities. I'm Diane Moca. During this election season, voters are wondering what candidates will do to improve the economy. We are with State Senator Meg Loughran Cappel, who represents Oswego, Shorewood, Plainfield, and Joliet. Thanks for joining us Meg, to talk about your ideas around economic development. Now, I understand you serve on the State Senate Commerce Committee, so how can that help our local communities here? Speaker 2 Well, thank you Diane and thank you so much for having me on the show today. Yeah I do, I serve on the Commerce Committee, and quite honestly, coming out of education, it was a new endeavor. So my husband and I are small business owners, and so I was very interested in being a part of that and helping to provide economic development for small businesses and for our communities. So I think Illinois is on the right track, especially with investing in our small businesses and investing in communities. So some things that we've been able to do in the Senate is help with grants and opportunities for towns such as what we're in right now in Aurora, or necessarily that's by a river economic development for new businesses and things that we can do to spur the growth of that with staffing and just entrepreneurial opportunities for new businesses. So those are some things that we've put in place in the Senate. Speaker 1 Can you give me any examples of specific items that you've worked on or even ideas that you've seen elsewhere that you'd like to bring here? Something specific. Speaker 2 Well, I think the thing that's really important to remember when we're talking about economic development is we have to think about all of our stakeholders and we have to think about not only our business owners, but we need to think about our employees and we need to think about our community. And so those are the things I think to take a multifaceted approach. One of the bills that I was able to work on with Leader Natalie Manley in terms of helping consumers, which eventually I think actually helps our businesses, was that when you're buying something at a grocery store or a retail outlet and they don't show exactly what the discount was, that is something that will now be on our receipts to show that exactly what that discount is. And there's various ways that we can do it. We didn't want to overburden businesses with that so they could either post it online or show it on their receipts. That's one way. And also just trying to lower fees I think when it comes to starting businesses. Those are some things, and a lot of that has to do with our municipalities and how you work through that. But I think that along with grants for historic areas and our towns that are by rivers and theater and entertainment industries, we've been able to provide grants for that. So those are some of the things that we've done throughout the state to help economic development. Speaker 1 There's a lot of questions around that. Using public funds for private businesses, when is it appropriate? When isn't it? You mentioned cities by the river like Oswego, like Aurora, arts districts, which a lot of cities, even small suburbs have. But how much do we prop up private business and how do we pick one candidate, mention winners and losers? How do we determine who is the best one besides a request for proposal grant process? Are there ways to help distressed areas without saying that we're favoring one business over another? Speaker 2 That's a great question, and that is something that I have heard in terms of some of the thoughts on how we do that. And I think we do have a grant process that's set up, and I think we do have nonpartisan ways to look at that. But I think we need to look at economic development in areas that might need it a little bit more than others. And I think that looking at minority owned businesses, looking at brand new businesses that are starting out, those are some things that we need to look at helping. I know we hear about corporations that get all those tax breaks, and to me, that's a struggle for me personally, when you hear that and you see that these multi-billion dollar businesses throughout our country are getting these great tax breaks. But I think the focus really does need to be on your small stakeholder in the community who's grown up there, who's lived there, who wants to make the area better. And that's more of what we're looking for in terms of economic development. If they're going to employ local people. And I think in terms of creating jobs, those are the areas that we need to look at. Speaker 1 And so how do we encourage people to become entrepreneurs? Because it's tough. We know so many businesses start up and fail. People put everything into it, they quit jobs, give up careers, and then they end up struggling. And there are resources out there, but sometimes those resources are free classes and things that aren't necessarily what the business owner needs most, money and connections and all of that. How can you, in a position of power, provide those and give that incentive to people to start those businesses? Speaker 2 That's a great question too. And I was a former educator, so education I think is key. And I think we do need to encourage that even in our high schools with business classes. Speaker 1 It's not right now though is it? Speaker 2 No, there's a lot I think that we can do to encourage that. My husband and I, out of the blue started a small business in 2019, right before... It was June of 2019. And people had been approaching us, "Oh, you should do this, you should do that." And as educators, getting a job and having three children and getting that normal paycheck, it took a lot for us to have the courage to do that and to save the money and to figure out how to invest in what we needed to start. But we did it and we had the courage to do it, and it took us a little bit of time. And I do think it's important to make sure that we are educating, that me as a state senator, to be able to hold forums for and work with our local chambers of commerce to make sure that that is out there so that people can feel encouraged to do it. And I think it's also an idea of... I think I have a great understanding of knowing that when you invest your own money, it is all on you to make that business work. And I do have a good understanding of that, and I want to encourage people to be able to fail up in a sense. And maybe we can make the risk not as great, with grant money and opportunities such as that. But I think the important thing is that we know that it's okay to fail, that we need to fail up. And that was our mentality as we move forward. And I want to encourage people to do that, encourage our young people, encourage just local development, even in the junior colleges and local community colleges. And even with the trades, there's ways that we can develop and encourage those types of innovative ideas. And we need to continue to do that. Speaker 1 And what was that business? Does it still exist? Speaker 2 That business still exists. The funny thing about our business is we started in June of 2019, and then the opportunity had arisen for me to just throw my hat in the ring for state senate, so I had a primary. And then COVID hit literally shortly thereafter, I want to say nine months after. And I think what was beneficial to us is that we weren't too big. So that COVID had, where when we had to completely shut down- Speaker 1 What's the business? Speaker 2 Our business is a driving school, so we have a teen and adult driving school. My husband was a Driver's Ed instructor and many people were encouraging us and asking us to start a school. And we were like, "No, no." And then people had even asked my husband to drive on the side, which you can't do legally. You can't do that. So finally one day I was like, "Why not? Let's try this. Let's try something different." We had kids that were going to be entering college and I'm sorry, but two teacher salaries, we were not wealthy people. So we decided just to try that to see if we could earn some extra income. And our philosophy, and I wish that we could get this across to all sorts of businesses, we talk all about our shareholders and making money for our shareholders. But to me, the most important thing that you can do as a business, and I think what we need to encourage from the state side is our stakeholder capitalism. We need to look at all of our stakeholders, our community members, our employees, the people that we service, and those are the things that are important. You need to look at your business as a whole. It's not always about making money, I think it's about making your community better. And as you do that, it seems like the money will eventually come. So we have a very slow but steady business plan and it seems to be working well for us. So we're really proud of that. And we'd like to encourage other people to do that as well. Speaker 1 Do you think more encouragement towards... You mentioned trades and other non-traditional educational approaches, and even educating young people on, yes you can take this leap and you can be an entrepreneur with no connections or no money. There's ways you can start things, there's the creator economy. Do you think that will have an impact, could, on poverty, crime, other issues like that, that really plague our society and that people are worried are going to get worse now that we're facing inflation and other economic woes? Speaker 2 I definitely think that education is the way to go. I was a special education teacher, and I don't believe everyone is set to go to a four year college. And now we're looking at, right now, the job market's very, very good for our kids coming out of college. But for a while there it wasn't. And they come out with lots of debt with student loans, and then they can't find a job that actually pays enough for them to live on their own, pay their student loans. And so I think having partnerships with career and technical education, manufacturing, our junior colleges, our community colleges, that is really what I believe is the way to go. They're not going to have as much debt. They're going to be able to save a little bit of money to invest in a small business. I think there are a lot of opportunities as I work with Juliet Junior College and some of our other trades and organizations, there's a lot of opportunities out there for kids coming out of high school to start in the trades or start in manufacturing. And then from there they can maybe even start their own business. So I really do believe, yes I say four year colleges are great. I went to one, I think it's always good to have that if the opportunity presents itself. But it's not the one direct way to find success and to even start businesses, because many times you're stuck with debt. That's really been the issue for my husband and I, we're that Gen X generation where we paid for our own college, and now we've got our adult parents that need help. And my 85 year old father lives with me, so we're juggling paying for college, helping my dad. We're in that inbetweeners. And so I think it took us a long time to be able to figure out and have the courage and look at our finances to start a business. So hopefully we can encourage the younger generation, our millennials and our Gen Z to get out there and do it. Speaker 1 And we believe strongly in small business. We're a small business here at Talk Lab and we've got several interns that are with us this summer to help learn about that as well. And we thank you for joining us for Talking Cities, I'm Diane Moca.
State Senator Wants More Resources Focused on Encouraging Others to Start Businesses Now
It’s not easy to get out of your comfort zone to start a business or run for office, and State Sen. Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood) did both in a short span of time. Now she’s working in the legislature to improve the economic climate for entrepreneurs. Her focuses are innovative and educational programs that encourage others to take the same risk.
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