Minority Business United We Stand

June 19, 2002
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Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce this week salutes area minority-owned businesses during its annual celebration. The long-running recognition necessarily maintains a focus on integration in the business community through minority suppliers and spotlighting area minority businesses, including several regional awards.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber deserves recognition itself in establishing programs and forums that offer “safe haven” for discussion of issues related to bias in this community. Several ancillary programs have taken a lead from these long-serving programs, not the least of which has been establishment of the Centers for Healing Racism, initiated by D&W chairman Robert Woodrick.

Further, as establishment of the Great Lakes Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was announced this spring, GRACC President John Brown was quick to laud the group and note its establishment would be better able to directly guide the unique issues of the Hispanic business community. This was while some individuals in the metro area believed it would “compete” with existing chambers.

Grand Rapids Business Journal and sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine this summer sat with GRACC members who led a panel discussion during a joint meeting with the Economic Club of Grand Rapids specific to racism within the business community. The first part of the full transcript of that discussion is on pages 7 and 8 and underscores the motivation for area businesses to have taken such a role in the community.

Considering the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the country, and sorrowfully predictable reaction in the form of racism by some members of our great society, it is an even more important record, previously scheduled for publication to coincide with Minority Business Week. Indeed, Steelcase President and CEO James Hackett noted months before the attack that it was important for his other businesses to understand the diversity of the communities in which employees work, whether here, in Eastern Europe or the Far East. Similar understanding, he emphasized, need be acquired in this community.

The outcome of these celebrations and forums is a stronger metro area economy, one that bolsters the success of every member.

Hackett also noted that beyond the talk, meaningful changes must be made, though he and others believe they are only beginning to outline what those changes specifically entail.

Cascade Engineering Chairman and CEO Fred Keller added, “If you have a work force that is going to be more and more dependent upon understanding and coping with and dealing with and engaging diversity, they’ll be more productive.”

And as Hackett notes, Grand Rapids then becomes a “best of class” city.

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