Michigan May Lead The Way In The Return Of In-Person Business
So many people are working at home as a result of the pandemic that we recently asked ‘Can the Internet Handle All of Us Working From Home?’
It’s a legitimate question, and it speaks to the massive impact the shifting workplace has had on the tech world. With offices having closed in so many industries and across so much of the world, working adults are more dependent on tech than ever before. We’re using the internet at all hours; we’re familiarizing ourselves with tools like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams; and many are learning more about cloud computing and cybersecurity than they’ve bothered to learn in years past.
Heavy reliance on technology isn’t going anywhere. But the assumption among some that from this point forward businesses will primarily be designed to operate remotely may be somewhat premature. We’re already seeing in some states that offices are beginning to reopen, and there are incentives mounting for new businesses to emerge from the pandemic — many of them in what we’d think of as “normal” conditions, with physical locations.
Some of the steps being taken in Michigan illustrate how a return of in-person business innovation may come about.
First and foremost, we should note that Michigan has taken notable advantage of existing grants that are designed specifically to help existing businesses get back to normal. Per a MITechNews report on restart grants, well over 1,000 Michigan small businesses have received grants of $5,000 each in accordance with the Michigan Small Business Restart Program. Those funds can be used at each business’s discretion, but it’s noted that some of the expenses they’re intended to cover include “rent,” “mortgage payments,” and “utility expenses” — in other words, costs associated with physical places of business. It’s fair to say then that existing assistance is not simply about keeping payroll going, or covering new tech costs to cope with remote work. Rather, Michigan is specifically seeking to help SMEs back to normal.
Additionally, the state government in Michigan has worked to make the state particularly appealing for those who might be looking into starting new businesses in the wake of the pandemic. Part of this comes down to basic policy that makes the formal steps required in starting a business relatively easy to manage. According to ZenBusiness’ step-by-step guide to forming an LLC in Michigan, the entire process boils down to a couple of official forms and a few internal decisions. Aspiring business owners can make their budding companies official with the state with just a few hours’ total work — a welcome dose of simplicity in a time that is so famously difficult for small enterprises.
Beyond making it easy to set up a business though, the Michigan government has also made a specific effort to celebrate small businesses and their owners of late. A recent report at WLNS covered the decision by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to declare an official “Michigan Small Business Week” to “recognize the thousands of small businesses across the state.” While this is in part a symbolic gesture, it’s also very much meant to encourage consumers in Michigan to support their local businesses — which, the same report noted, make up an astounding 98% of the state’s economy. All of this speaks to the level of support that existing and new business owners alike can enjoy in Michigan even despite the pandemic. It may well prove to be an incentive for aspiring entrepreneurs to attempt to open shop in this particular state.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that Michigan isn’t done seeking more tangible support for its small businesses either. Despite the aforementioned grants, an article on WZZM13 quoted Governor Whitmer calling on the federal government to pass additional recovery packages for small businesses. It’s unclear what if anything this will lead to, but it further speaks to the state’s support.
All of these points together amount to an attractive environment for businesses, and for in-person operations in particular. Michigan business owners have been given relief aimed at keeping physical locations open. The state has made it easy to start new businesses, and has made it incredibly apparent that it will support small and emerging enterprises. And there’s an ongoing effort to secure more relief that will continue to help with the broad recovery.
Ultimately this could serve as something of a model for a return to normal. As stated previously, dependence on tech is not disappearing anytime soon — and neither is remote work, generally. But the steps outlined above demonstrate how, on a state-by-state business, businesses can be led back to physical workplaces. It may be that what we think of as the new normal in the U.S. won’t actually be as permanent as some expect.
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