Beckerman: the Internet makes Old Town Scottsdale new again

“Old” and “internet” don’t always go together. But in Old Town Scottsdale, they do.

Michael Beckerman

That was a clear takeaway from our recent visit with five local businesses and Rep. David Schweikert in Old Town Scottsdale.

Communities and businesses across the country depend on the internet to stay connected. State and national leaders should develop policies that continue to foster economic growth and a high quality of life for their communities.

One way to highlight how small businesses and civic organizations derive value from internet-enabled services and platforms is through internet community crawls. The crawls are a chance for community leaders and business owners across industries — including art galleries, restaurants, real estate, and retail in Scottsdale — to share stories about how they’re using the internet to attract more consumers and expand their product offerings.

The result is better options for communities, stronger economic growth, and the continued vibrancy of Old Town.

Take, for example, Scottsdale resident Jim Klein’s story. Jim owns J Klein Gallery in the heart of Old Town’s Scottsdale Art Walk. Businesses like his are essential to the artistic history of the area, but used to be limited to foot traffic until the growth of the internet.

Now, Jim’s online gallery and use of social media allow him to fulfill his dream to sell artwork to people across the country.

We also heard from Malee’s Thai Bistro, where owner Deidre Pain said customer reviews through Yelp and TripAdvisor have been critical in attracting more customers and growing from a small eatery (opened in 1987) to become a staple of the community.

Subsequently, the increased demand allowed her to enter the food delivery market, which she explained was only possible through apps like DoorDash that streamline food ordering and delivery so that both the businesses and consumers benefit.

Our meeting with S4Group exemplified the internet’s impact on another important economic driver — the real estate market. At S4 Group, Scottsdale Realtor Jenny McCall shared how her 10-person staff uses Zillow, a website that allows people to search and compare properties, to expand their clientele and help them buy and sell new homes.

There was an overwhelming consensus at each stop that policies should support innovation and protections that allow internet platforms to exist and thrive.

Why? These stories reach beyond the businesses on Main Street — they benefit the broader Scottsdale community and allow these companies to compete globally.

Along the crawl, we also heard from Miguel Sanchez and Michelle Hebert about how internet-enabled platforms make possible one element of the American dream — starting your own business.

Miguel used the extra income he earned as an Uber driver to start Wadaa! Street Tacos, which he now features on UberEats, DoorDash, and GrubHub. Michelle, on the other hand, has a storefront on Amazon Handmade for her business, The Silver Wren. Amazon Handmade helped turn her personal jewelry-making hobby into a business that supports jobs for other Scottsdale women.

Miguel and Michelle are just two examples of Arizonans who hold one of the over 500,000 online income positions, in which individuals use internet platforms to earn supplemental income.

The internet industry continues to grow in the state, directly employing more than 55,000 Arizonans and contributing more than 11 percent of Arizona’s GDP per person, according to Internet Association research.

These internet success stories are not unique to Scottsdale. Business owners and community leaders around the country in places like Pensacola, Fla,; Shelby, N.C.; and Claremont, N.H.; about the many ways they use internet platforms and services to drive their communities forward.

The same message rang true: the internet is critical to the innovation and competition that helps small businesses and local organizations thrive.

The internet provides real value, and policymakers should not lose sight of the communities across America that rely on it. After all, the internet plays a critical role in local economies and keeps places like Old Town Scottsdale new.

Editor’s note: Mr. Beckerman is president & CEO of the Internet Association

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