It's a familiar refrain – “it’s hard to be a businessperson in Illinois” – but lawmakers on a state House committee want to find ways to tackle it. State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) chairs the House Small Business Empowerment and Workforce Development Committee and also has experience as a small businessman. “It’s a risk, but it’s a real benefit to the state,” says Ford, a real estate agent who says he has not sold a house since he was elected. “If you go into any small business, you’ll see eight, nine, 10 people working in a small restaurant, serving people. It’s always good that we invest in those neighborhood businesses.”
Ford is scheduled to stand trial next year on federal bank fraud charges alleging he lied to gain an extension on a line of credit related to his real estate business.
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Ford’s committee heard testimony about how the state has rolled out the unwelcome mat for businesses. “As our state’s finances have worsened, the focus on revenue enforcement has created an ‘us vs. them’ attitude,” said Beth Doria, who runs a trade association for women contractors. “For the first time, many businesses have received visits from inspectors from the Department of Labor and Department of Revenue seeking to catch them and penalize owners for mere infractions. The state should look at facilitating a system which promotes compliance, rather than instilling fear.”