BY RACHEL JOHNSON
With more than 2 millions apps available and the number increasing every day, it’s great to find some apps for both your Android and iPhone that are unique to Springfield. Native Shawn Mayernick, founder and CEO of Bee Chosen Marketing Group, launches an Ask Abe app on Aug. 1.
Mayernick calls it a Springfield experiences app. “Whatever you can do in Springfield will be on there,” he said. Similar to an app he developed for the city of Decatur called City Scout Decatur, there will icons offering information about restaurants, lodging, local shops, featured attractions, historic sites and most importantly, an event calendar.
There are plenty of print and online sources for both locals and tourists to discover what is happening in Springfield on a given day, but none are complete. “We’ve just combined all these different calendars into one source,” Mayernick said. “It’s a simple scroll function and it notifies you if it’s live or not.”
“The app itself is live functioning,” Mayernick said, explaining that means events can be added at the last minute. No more regrets for missing a deadline to get your event in a calendar.
Springfield has 250,000 tourists annually and so, of course, the app will also feature historic sites. “It will have all the historic sites that we have in Springfield, and you’ll be able to do a self-guided tour of them.” Mayernick said. “It drops your location and tells you where is the closest site.”
Links to business and restaurant websites will be available as well as links to Yelp and Open Table. “We’re not here to compete with Yelp. We’re not going to be as big as Yelp. That’s not the goal,” Mayernick said.
One ongoing issue that Mayernick hopes to be able to address through his app is a perceived lack of parking, which is what keeps many potential customers away from downtown Springfield and other sites. While popular parking app SpotHero hasn’t come to Springfield yet, Mayernick would like to provide parking information on his Ask Abe app. “People think downtown doesn’t have any parking,” he said.
Mayernick was working for the Illinois State Fair when it launched its app, now three years old. One unique feature it offers is a scavenger hunt. It not only gets people into places they might otherwise ignore, it gives the vendors and businesses data on where people are spending their time.
“The state fair app is also for year-round events, so you don’t have to just download it during the state fair. There are activities on here year-round,” said Illinois State Fair public information officer Megan Booth. “It’s actually surprising what happens out here all year.”
Booth feels the app is very handy for fairgoers to not only find a special event they’re looking for, but also to find their favorite corn dog vendor or booth. “You can also flag or star special events and set reminders,” she said.
Aggieland Software, which is housed in the Innovate Springfield offices at 15 S. Old State Capitol Plaza, is another local company working on new applications. The group started in Texas in 2015 before coming to Springfield, thus the name.
“Springfield is a great community. It’s a small big town,” CEO Deepak Dhankher said. “It has all the facilities of a big town, but at the same time, it’s a small community, so you can reach out to the businesses easily.”
Their app, Union Buddy, is currently being used in California and they are also promoting it in Springfield. The app allows users to keep track of their union hours, benefits and more. “Any unions would work with this,” Dhankher said.
What the Aggieland team seems most excited about is an app idea they came up with just three months ago and received patent approval for, called Fund-a-Cause. “This is a fee-for-service app,” Dhankher said.
The app was originally conceived for unions. After the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on Janus v. AFSCME, which ruled that union employees don’t have to pay fair share fees if they choose not to join, the team conceived the app where union employees can go to choose where they want their fees to be applied. “People can choose what they want to pay for, like what cause they care about, whether it’s collective bargaining, grievance and appeals, health and safety, etc.,” Dhankher said.
The software engineers, who do their own code writing, realized something during the process. “We created this for unions,” Dhankher said. “But we realized that it could solve problems for local shops, too.”
So, using the same basic codes, they also registered the name My Local App. For a small local business without a strong internet presence, they could plug their information into the app for their own use. For example, Dhankher mentions a mom and pop pizza place down the road from their offices and says they could use the app to make not only their menu available to customers, but allow them to order food and have it delivered as well. “There’s a kind of movement going on, buy local,” Dhankher said. “That’s why it’s named My Local.”
Current users of Mr. Delivery or Order2EatSpringfield would hopefully be able to tie into the app, according to Dhankher.
With no slowdown in sight for app development, it’s great for consumers to have choices. Millennials may gravitate toward apps like Tinder, Venmo, and YouTube while older people prefer WebMD, Good Reads, or NPR, but apps like Ask Abe will benefit everyone who wants to explore Springfield, regardless of age.
Rachel Johnson is a freelance writer and new to Springfield. A former newspaper editor and resident of Wisconsin, Johnson is enjoying her new city and all that it has to offer.