Amara Enyia, the executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, spoke on a range of topics related to local economics at a luncheon in Bellwood on July 26. The policy expert spoke about the impact of the state’s budget, among other topics.
I want to convey the sense of urgency about the times we’re in. It was only a couple of weeks ago that we got something of a budget in Illinois after three weeks of going without one.
The Chamber has a direct experience with some of those challenges. We had received significant funding from the state for a program that employed young people. Partly as a result of the budget impasse, we ended up losing some of that funding.
At one point, we used to employ 80 people from the community, partnering them with local businesses so they could expand the capacities of those businesses to serve the needs of the community. When the funding disappeared due to what was happening in Springfield, we were no longer able to employ those young people.
At the same time, there was a significant uptick in crime in the city. So that increase in crime corresponds directly with the loss of resources that come to our communities to serve our residents.
A lot of times, what’s overlooked in our communities is that the avenues for capital, whether you’re looking to start or expand your business, can be limited. So for those who may have gone to traditional financial institutions for a loan and gotten a rejection letter—that can be very demoralizing and can have a chilling effect on individuals who have a dream to create something but don’t have the resources.
So we’re very intentional about building relationships with financial institutions to encourage them to create products that are tailored to meet the needs of our businesses.
— Michael Romain