Diversity initiative gets a bit bigger

February 6, 2009
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The diversity initiative started by the Convention and Arena Authority in 2006 recently added two members when Eddie Tadlock and Darius Quinn joined the board’s effort. Both men are African-Americans and both began occupying vital positions locally last year.

Quinn is the human resources manager for Kent County, while Tadlock serves as the assistant general manger of DeVos Place for SMG — the firm that manages daily operations at Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place for the CAA.

SMG Regional General Manager Rich MacKeigan said Tadlock is also known as a leader in the industry on diversity issues, having addressed many aspects of the matter through the International Association of Public Assembly Managers during his career.

“He is making it a point (to become involved),” said MacKeigan. “It’s good that we got him from Seattle.”

Quinn took over the county’s effort to ensure that its work force represents the area’s population after Tom Carnegie retired.

The CAA initiative, which is being led by board member Clif Charles, began by forming focus groups with minorities to learn what type of entertainment they would like to see at the arena and DeVos Performance Hall. Joe Jones of Strategic Communications Group and Skot Welch of Diversity Management Strategists conducted the focus groups and came away with a wide variety of entertainment options that would bring more minorities through the doors of both buildings. But a recent meeting provided just the opposite response.

MacKeigan said he was considering booking a Hispanic version of “Disney on Ice” at the arena and ran the idea past a focus group comprised of Hispanics. They told him that their kids wouldn’t be particularly interested in that version of the show because the kids speak English. So he booked the standard version of the ice-skating show.

“We’re also assessing the (Grand Rapids and Hispanic) chambers’ diversity efforts,” he said.

CAA member Lew Chamberlin thought the board should keep going back to the focus groups, before and after shows.

“We need to stay in contact with them,” said Chamberlin, who was recently reappointed to another four-term term to the board.

Besides bringing in more acts and events that appeal to minorities, the board’s initiative is also trying to get people of color more involved with the buildings through internships and jobs. The effort also wants to get more minority-owned companies doing business with the buildings. Board members feel that they will improve the buildings’ bottom lines if they are successful in reaching minorities.

“It’s an important initiative,” said Gary McInerney, a CAA board member.

At the last meeting, Charles introduced the following diversity statement adopted by the CAA, which MacKeigan said would be posted in the convention center and arena:

“The future of our region depends on our ability to embrace change and leverage diversity through leadership, education, employment, suppliers, and continued community support. We believe that diversity is critical to our business strategy and will improve our competitiveness and prospects for long-term success."

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