In the News

Hern says COVID-19 changing both businesses and their customers

Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World

Businesses have had to adapt to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, but so have their customers, 1st District Congressman Kevin Hern said Monday.

As the lead presenter for a live-streamed The Hill program on e-commerce and small business, Hern said small-business owners have had to squeeze years of transition into a few months.

“I really feel for those small businesses that are having to accelerate a ... five-, 10-year horizon they set to evolve to a digital platform and having to do it in four, five, six months — 90 days — in order to stay viable,” Hern said.

Outside of politics, Hern is best-known for his involvement with McDonald’s franchises — most of which he no longer owns — but his first business was a sole proprietor software company and he has also been involved in banking, construction, agriculture and manufacturing startups.

Hern said online platforms and the pandemic have “How many people have you talked to over the years who’ve said, ‘I’d never buy anything online, it’s not safe.’ Now they’re buying a lot of things online.

“It’s changed not only the underlying businesses but the consumers’ ideas,” Hern said.

In July, Hern wrote a piece for The Hill defending Amazon, Facebook and other near-monopolistic platforms, saying they should be celebrated as success that began on a shoestring.

He also said small business need large ones like that to provide an entry into e-commerce.

Monday, Hern acknowledged with size and success comes responsibility but said, “what our big platforms are doing, the marketplaces on these various e-commerce sites, are instrumental and paramount for success of small business.”

Hern defended the distribution of financial assistance through the various COVID-19 relief measures and said $135 billion in small business loans went unclaimed.

Hern noted that money is now in congressional limbo because the loan deadline has passed, and indicated support for making it available again.

“We shouldn’t be playing politics with jobs,” he said.