OEDA Board Adopts Statement on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging

Jan 1, 2024News, Newsletter

The Ohio Economic Development Association’s (OEDA) Board of Directors is pleased to share that it has adopted a Statement on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in support of the association’s mission and its on-going efforts to strengthen and evolve the practice of economic development so as to foster economic growth, prosperity, and opportunity for all residents of the State of Ohio.

The Statement is the latest result of the work of the association’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee which is led by Committee Chair Renee Ligon, Senior Director of Partnerships & Engagement for TeamNEO, and Committee Vice-Chair Tim Mayle, Executive Director of the Center to Advance Manufacturing.  The committee’s work has been informed by board-level strategic planning, facilitated conversations with leaders of the economic development profession, and membership surveys.

Ligon explained the “why” behind this effort. The importance of organizations and communities understanding DEIB is not only related to race or color. It is understanding that all races, ethnicity, gender, disability status, sexual orientation must be advanced through the lens of understanding what this really means to a state like Ohio which has communities and populations that have faced multiple barriers from underinvestment, marginalization.

“Everyone has experienced a time in their lives where they have felt excluded, isolated, or overlooked. This work is meant to focus our work on building an economy that challenge conscious and unconscious behaviors that reinforce isolationism and exclusion of anyone. As economic development professionals we understand that one of the best indicators of a strong economy is one where EVERYONE is included, represented, and fully engaged as thought partners in the success of our collective and individual economic growth. No one group or person can do this alone. If we are going to truly create a competitive, equitable, inclusive, vibrant economy everyone must be in the room.”  

Unanimously adopted at its most recent board meeting, the statement will serve as a guiding document for OEDA’s program of work and professional development curriculum.  The statement is also an integral part of efforts to build an organizational culture that values diversity, equity, inclusion, and prioritizes the creation of environments that are welcoming to all.

The opening section of the statement summarizes the document. “As a membership organization, OEDA is committed to promoting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) in all that we do. We believe that a diverse and inclusive community is critical to our success, and we are committed to creating an environment where EVERYONE feels valued, respected, and supported.” 

Mayle added that the business case added another dimension to the importance of this work.

“As Economic Development Professionals, the number one concern we hear is workforce.  Companies are competing for top talent.  It is important that communities across Ohio are working to support their companies to meet their workforce needs.  OEDA’s leadership on DEIB has developed the tools necessary for all Economic Developers to attract and retain talent,” Mayle said.

OEDA also believes the economic development profession is strongest when its practitioners reflect the people of Ohio.  As a profession that is seeing significant and sustained growth in Ohio, OEDA wants to ensure the state continues to have best in class economic development talent that works collaboratively with business and community leaders, elected officials, and stakeholders in every region and community in Ohio.

“There has been unprecedented growth in the economic development profession over the last several years,” according to Jennifer Tisone Price, OEDA President & CEO. “Local, regional, and state leaders understand the importance and value of the profession. Price added that OEDA’s membership had more than doubled in the last seven years and that this effort “further fosters a sense of belonging, and a more connected and engaged membership.”

Ligon and Mayle were able to widely share the Statement with professionals who are part of Ohio’s economic development ecosystem during the association’s December webinar on Equitable and Strategic Site Selection. OEDA offered the complimentary webinar in partnership with the Fund for the Economic Future, a Northeast Ohio non-profit civic collaborative that brings together leaders across sectors to advance a more equitable economy. 

The webinar included a demonstration of a unique site selection tool called “Where Matters.” This online open-source tool enabled businesses and economic developers to find a site for investment that to compare sites based not only on its real estate characteristics risks but also on critical information like diversity of a labor shed and the time, cost, and carbon emissions of commuting.  For those who were not able to participate, a recording of the webinar can be found HERE.

The full text of OEDA’s Statement on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging can be found HERE

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