Governments have been heaping attention and money on ‘high tech’ companies for years. But now that almost every company uses tech, it’s time to spread the love.

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Free Dominos Pizza is delivered at ManorCare Health Services in Spring Township, Pennsylvania, on July 10, 2020.

  • There’s no such thing as a “non-tech” company anymore.
  • The pandemic has pummeled businesses but also forced them to use tech to survive.
  • Policymakers and economic developers need to recognize and adjust to this reality.
  • Ned Staebler has spent the last 15 years as an economic developer practitioner in Michigan.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us several lessons about the economy.

First, the stock market reflects little about the overall health of the broader economy. Secondly, there are two distinct tiers of workers in this country. Workers without a college degree have lost jobs at more than double the rate of their more highly educated peers, and their rebound has been far slower. Neither of these facts come as much surprise to policymakers, and perhaps the wider acknowledgement of these realities will lead to more effective and intentional interventions.

There’s another important lesson that business owners as well as policymakers and economic developers should take from the past year – one that, like those mentioned above, has always been true but largely ignored: Every business is a tech business. This might sound counterintuitive. You may ask, “how can a barber shop or cleaning service be considered a technology business?” But the pandemic has made it clear that for a business to survive and thrive in 2021, it must understand and utilize technology to compete in a global marketplace or with local consumers that even before COVID-19 valued convenience more than ever.

Every business is a tech business

The line between tech and non-tech, long blurring, has finally disappeared. The pandemic has made clear that every business needs to have an intentional strategy to utilize technology to better reach its customers, whether those are diners in their neighborhood or potential new customers hundreds of miles away. Similarly, businesses can use tech to solidify their supply chain, handle logistics, develop new products, and manage their finances. Technology enables every company, even those that have traditionally been focused on their local market, to become a national or international business that exports and contributes base economic jobs to the local economy.

Restaurants that have long resisted online ordering or delivery have been forced to adapt. Retailers who’ve been focused on their in-person sales have joined the world of multichannel marketing and e-commerce, engaging customers who might never step foot in their shop – or even in their city – by building their own websites or using a service like Shopify or by using marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon.
Businesses that run experiences like wine tastings or corporate team-building offsites have discovered the power of video conferencing and created innovative new ways to deliver these experiences virtually. Even industries we think of as “low-tech,” like cleaning services, have learned that their business can grow and thrive if they embrace technology that provides convenience and comfort to their customers.

This isn’t anything new. The most successful businesses have known it for years. After all, when Amazon started, it wasn’t a cloud-selling, data-capturing, Alexa-building behemoth. It was a bookstore with a website. Likewise, no matter what Uber tells you, it’s a taxi service with an app. Post-COVID, small businesses can still tap into these new revenue streams, increasing their profits, but only if they have the skills and the resources to utilize this technology effectively.

Policy adjustments

The utilization of technology has tremendous implications for public policy across the country. For decades, economic developers have been laser-focused on creating jobs in the “knowledge economy” or in STEM fields. Entire economic development strategies have been created around developing high-growth tech companies. Every city has a handful (or more) of publicly funded tech incubators and accelerators, and states have invested billions of dollars in luring big tech/pharma or growing their own in research parks and incubators.

This is a nationwide phenomenon, with almost every state pursuing similar tech-based strategies in the hopes of creating “the next Silicon Valley.” Michigan developed the 21st Century Jobs Fund, successfully investing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into four technology sectors. Pennsylvania has the successful Ben Franklin Technology Partners program. Ohio calls their version the Ohio Third Frontier. Virtually every state has some statewide program with the words “innovate” or “technology” in the name that is an attempt to help tech businesses.

Depending how you measure returns, many of these initiatives have been successful and represent a good use of taxpayers resources. But, in an effort to be more targeted with limited resources, almost all of these programs have focused on technology only in very specific sectors. As a result, almost no state has a comprehensive statewide program to provide support to businesses that don’t fall within narrow and outdated definitions of “high growth.” And after three-plus decades, most of the “fly-over states” are still, well, getting flown over.

Economic developers invest in tech startups in the hopes of growing their own Facebook or Google. This makes intuitive sense. Those types of companies create abundant, high-paying jobs that in turn spin off lots of multiplier jobs in the local economy. They make an area “cool” and attractive to globally mobile talent, helping stop “brain drain” and attracting younger workers.

But here’s the rub: the local pizza place, hardware store, book shop, or taxi service is just as likely to become the next Domino’s, Home Depot, Amazon, or Uber as that little tech startup is to become the next Microsoft or Twitter. And, as they grow, these neighborhood-based businesses are far less likely to take their high-paying headquarters jobs to the coasts in search of venture capital and tech talent.

The founders of Google, Groupon, and Intralase all incubated their ideas and companies in Michigan, but none of them grew their companies there. Meanwhile Domino’s & Little Caesars (pizza), La-Z-Boy (furniture), Kellogg’s (cereal) and Whirlpool (appliances) all started and stayed, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The necessary lockdowns for COVID won’t last forever. In the coming months, vaccines will make people feel (and be) safe enough to resume a more “normal” set of consumer behavior. Smart entrepreneurs will take the lessons they learned this past year about how to use technology to grow their “traditional” businesses well beyond their pre-COVID levels. Policymakers should understand this opportunity, and provide capital and incentives for these “tech-enabled” businesses to scale up their use of technology. Whether they do or not will be the difference between a slower recovery that further exacerbates economic inequality or one that is quicker and does more to alleviate it.

Ned Staebler is a native Detroiter. A graduate of Detroit Public Schools and the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Staebler has worked in the private and public sectors for 25 years.Ned Staebler is a native Detroiter. A graduate of Detroit Public Schools and the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Staebler has worked in the private and public sectors for 25 years.

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This is what Facebook looks like in Australia after the social media giant pulled all news content

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaving The Merrion Hotel in Dublin after a meeting with politicians to discuss regulation of social media and harmful content in April 2019.

  • Facebook is blocking Australian users from seeing, sharing, and interacting with news on the site.
  • Moreover, all Facebook users worldwide aren’t able to see news shared by Australian news outlets.
  • Facebook now looks remarkably different for Australian users.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On Wednesday, Facebook removed critical functionality for its Australian users: the ability to see, share, and interact with news content on the social media platform.

The abrupt change, Facebook said, was due to a recently proposed law in Australia

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” a blog post from Facebook said. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

The reality of the change – for Facebook users in Australia, and for users around the world attempting to view or post news from Australian publications – is stark. 

The Facebook page for Australia’s most widely read newspaper, The Herald Sun, is completely wiped of content:

Facebook news in Australia

Similarly, if a Facebook user in Australia attempts to view any news organization, the content is blocked – whether that news is from an Australian publication or something else.

BBC News reporter Frances Mao highlighted an example from her own publication:

Moreover, whether you’re in Australia or anywhere else in the world, Facebook is blocking all users from sharing or interacting with news content from Australian publications.

When I attempted to share news from The Herald Sun on my personal Facebook page, the pop-up message below blocked me from posting:

Facebook news block in Australia

The move to block all Australian news content is considered the “nuclear option” in Facebook’s ongoing battle with the Australian government over proposed “News Media Bargaining Code” legislation. 

If passed, the legislation would require tech giants like Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for their content. Just hours before Facebook announced its plans for Australia, Google announced a landmark partnership with News Corp, which is owned by Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch, to pay “significant” sums for news content.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that Facebook’s “actions to unfriend” the country were “as arrogant as they were disappointing,” in a post on Facebook.

Beyond blocking news pages, Australian Facebook users began discovering a variety of non-news Facebook pages that were blocked – from essential health service pages to food banks. 

Facebook is reinstating some of those pages, but pointed blame at Australia’s proposed legislation for the error. “As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider. “However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted.”

Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@businessinsider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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Arizona Republican introduced a bill to let state legislature overturn results in a presidential election

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A man holds a sign reading “Q Sent me” as supporters of Donald Trump gather to protest outside the Maricopa County Election Department as counting continues after the US presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5, 2020.

  • An Arizona Republican introduced a bill that would let the state legislature decide presidential elections.
  • Rep. Shawnna Bolick’s legislation would allow lawmakers to overturn the secretary of state’s certification of an election result.
  • Bolick, who was reelected in November, promoted false claims about the 2020 election.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A top Arizona Republican who promoted a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2020 election has introduced a bill that would allow legislators override the certification of the state’s top elections official and effectively overturn the results of a future presidential election.

Rep. Shawnna Bolick, a Phoenix-area Republican, does not dispute her own reelection in November. But after Donald Trump lost his bid for another term, she sought to block electors from casting their votes for the winner, President Joe Biden, despite the election having already been certified by Arizona’s Secretary of State.

Bolick also promotedSharpiegate,” the false conspiracy theory that ballots were invalidated because poll workers gave Republican voters permanent markers instead of ballpoint pens.

Now the lawmaker, who chairs the Ways & Means Committee in the state house, is seeking to provide the legislature – narrowly controlled by Republicans – the formal power to revoke the certified results of a presidential election.

In particular, HB 2720 states that the legislature “may revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election.” Notably, the bill would not grant the lawmakers the power to overturn the result of elections for the legislature itself.

Laurie Roberts, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, noted the bill would “allow the legislature to ignore the state’s presidential election results and choose its own winner right up until the moment a president-elect steps up to the podium and puts his hand on the Bible.”

Ironically, the sponsor of the legislation is not herself known for strict adherence to electoral regulations.

In 2020, Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled that Bolick herself violated state law when she failed to disclose her actual home address in a filing with election officials.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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