Submitted by Dan Gibson, Mayor of Natchez

“We need to decrease our reliability on Chinese products, not increase it,” writes Gibson.

Take a stroll through Natchez, the oldest city on the Mighty Mississippi River, and you will quickly see what makes this town special. Don’t be surprised if you see a famous Hollywood actor who happens to be in Natchez making a film, but for sure you will see many smiling, hard-working entrepreneurs, operating their gift shops, restaurants, and small hotels, greeting tourists from all over the world with unrivaled Southern Hospitality. You’ll see majestic historic homes, bed and breakfast establishments, and all sorts of stores with gifts and antiques, fine china and clothing. These small businesses are an important part of our community. They help give local flavor to the City of Natchez.

And it’s not just Natchez. Downtowns across Mississippi and the entire country rely on small businesses to help attract visitors, showcase their cities, and drive their economies. While these small businesses love foot traffic, they also rely on technology tools to reach customers beyond the town in which they reside. From promoting on Facebook and Instagram, to Google AdWords, to websites and e-commerce ability and more, these are just a few examples of how technology helps these businesses expand their customer base.

This became especially true during the pandemic when many businesses and organizations turned to digital tools and online platforms to keep their businesses running when physical visits to their stores were abnormally limited. Did you know more than 90 percent of small business owners in Mississippi significantly increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic?

These technology tools are not only vital to our small businesses, but to our healthcare systems and schools as well. Just ask the teachers who had to adapt lesson plans to online teaching for a while or doctors who now routinely conduct patient visits via telehealth.

Unfortunately, there is legislation currently being considered in Congress that threatens to hurt our economy by breaking up the tech companies that provide these vital tools. Recently, a coalition of chambers of commerce sent a letter to Congress opposing the legislation. The letter states, “These bills would harm consumers by raising prices, fueling inflation, reducing investment, and damaging innovation.”

Now, we all know the tech companies have their faults. Privacy, censorship, and data breaches are all serious issues Congress needs to properly address, but there is always a balance in life that tends to be the wiser choice. We already have enough economic struggles in Southwest Mississippi and across the country with wages not keeping up with the cost of housing, food and transportation, so let’s not pull the rug out from under the millions of American jobs tied to technology as Congress attempts to kill the golden goose.

And it’s not just our economy at risk – it threatens our national security. It’s no secret the U.S. and China are in a high-stakes battle over the global technology sector. The United States has led the world in technological innovation since World War II; however, U.S. leadership in this race is threatened and no longer taken for granted, especially since Chinese companies are steadily pirating American technology. We need to decrease our reliability on Chinese products, not increase it.

A new white paper published by the Lexington Institute, in partnership with the American Edge Project (AEP) – The New Arsenal Of Democracy: The U.S. Commercial High-Tech Industry’s Role In Countering The China Threat – warns that anti-innovation legislation currently being considered by Congress will undermine domestic technology development and jeopardize America’s ability to compete with China in the coming years and decades.

The hopes and dreams of future generations of Americans are at stake, even for us in
small towns like Natchez.

Congress must be prudent and wise. Thankfully, Senators Wicker and Hyde-Smith are not prone to knee-jerk reactions and have long been leaders in promoting sound policies that support our Main Street economies. As they, and so many Mississippians know—too much Washington almost always hurts American prosperity.

Please join me in urging Congress to support our small businesses and defeat this attack on America’s tech industry. Contact your Senator or Congressman today. Mississippi Deserves More.

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Submitted by Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson.