We’ve all come to rely on technology for many aspects of our daily lives. It’s so easy to find out how late a nearby store is open, get the phone number of a local bookstore, or search for a convenient coffee shop. These same small businesses rely on digital technology to engage their customers and reach new audiences.
Unfortunately, currently legislative proposals being considered by state lawmakers, threaten to alter the way we – and the small businesses that drive our economy – use and access digital services.
As it currently stands, SB 262 and HB 1547 would drastically raise costs for countless Florida small businesses that use relevant advertising to reach their customers. Many Hispanic-owned businesses I work with rely on the very kind of services that would be hurt by this legislation.
That’s why as president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I’m urging state lawmakers to consider the impact on small businesses before proceeding with this legislation.
At first glance, this bill may seem like a win for Floridians. Maintaining privacy is a good thing after all. But when you take a closer look, it’s clear the legislation would actually create barriers between businesses and their consumers that would make life harder for us all. Just one example is a provision of the bill allowing consumers to opt out of targeted advertising, a change that would erode the relationship between local Florida businesses and their customers.
With the effectiveness of this kind of advertising diminished, small businesses would be forced to spend more money to reach fewer customers. Many businesses – from air conditioning companies and health care providers to restaurants and boutiques – would see their costs go up.
Online advertising is a great equalizer in the marketplace, giving mom and pop businesses the same kind of access to consumers long dominated by giant corporations. Right now, 80% of small businesses point to digital advertising as a way to help their companies compete with larger competitors. The proposed legislation would upend this balance.
The reality is that consumers already make decisions daily that opt out of advertising. None of us are forced to use Facebook or Google or any other online services. But when we use these services, we often see ads that are relevant to us.
The ads might show a lunch special from the new restaurant down the street or an ad for a local nonprofit’s fundraising event.
That balance between advertisers and consumers is beneficial, but this legislation jeopardizes that system and threatens to raise costs for both businesses and nonprofits.
Unfortunately, the current proposals will hurt Main Street businesses all across Florida. Larger corporations may be able to absorb the increased advertising costs, but many small businesses will be crushed.
I urge state legislators to see the value that vibrant small businesses bring to our communities and consider a different approach that won’t have as many sweeping consequences. Florida’s small businesses are counting on it.
Julio Fuentes is the President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.