Port Shorts: Economic Equity
Economic equity and inclusion have been central values and business imperatives of The Port’s since its founding in 2001
A key component of The Port’s long-standing economic inclusion strategy is to provide match-making opportunities for majority-owned firms with minority-owned, women-owned and small business enterprises. The Port also helps businesses better understand the advantage of economic inclusion when contracting work.
To accelerate this work, The Port hired a vice president of economic equity, a newly created role intended to increase The Port’s focus on delivering economic equity and inclusion in all of its projects.
Economic equity has always been a part of The Port’s fabric. It translates into innovation, competitive pricing and more sourcing opportunities for more minorities and women. - Jilson Daniels, Vice President of Economic Equity, The Port
But it’s not a one-man band. Spreading the gospel of economic equity and inclusion requires a broad commitment.
Economic equity needs to be driven from the leadership team and pushed down through the entire organization. We need to be very strategic and intentional in the way we do it, so we have to create goals and strategies on how to do it, and also talk about how to do it effectively." - Jilson Daniels, Vice President of Economic Equity, The Port
One question, however, that proponents of economic equity and inclusion frequently find themselves answering is ‘why is fostering economic equity and inclusion so important?’
It’s important for us as a society to be able to include African Americans and other minorities in the prosperity that we have here in this country. And investment opportunities and opportunities to have ownership in their own network, and I think that’s why it’s important for us to include everyone." - Michael Moore, President & Founder, Black Achievers
If we want our population in the city to grow, we have to be inclusive of everybody. And I believe the city needs to be intentionally inclusive of people that don’t look like the ‘normal’ people that live in Cincinnati.” - Albert Smitherman, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Jostin Construction
If you talk to anyone passionate about driving more economic equity and inclusion in our region, they’ll be the first to tell you that even with a commitment to equity in large numbers, sometimes making it happen requires a bit of tough talk.
So those of us that are engaged, those of us who are committed, have to be willing to step out and be in those places that are uncomfortable for us. So, there’s a boldness, a go first kind of approach and attitude that we all have to take.” - Liza Smitherman, Chief People Officer, Jostin Construction
Economic equity ensures everyone has access to the same treatment, opportunities, and advancement. Equity aims to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent the full participation of organizations. And some barriers can be hurdled by simply looking more closely.
And the hope is that it’s not a passing phase (but) that it’s something that will continue on without being forced.” Tom: “Does it feel forced to you?” Sheila: “Sometimes.” Tom: “Tell me more.” Sheila: “Because you have some companies that talk about being inclusive and they really aren’t.” - Sheila A, Mixon, Executive Director, The Women’s Enterprise Business Council & Sr. Vice President, Business Development and Entrepreneurship, Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio
And Sheila Mixon, Albert and Liza Smitherman, Michael Moore and The Port each recognize the critical need to open up eyes and demonstrate what, why and where people need to look.
Yet each will also tell you it’s about more than just looking. It’s about the commitment to one word to consistently embrace a cohesive approach to promoting equity and inclusion.
We need to be very strategic and intentional.” - Jilson Daniels, Vice President of Economic Equity, The Port
You have to be intentional.” - Albert Smitherman, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Jostin Construction
People need to be intentional about it.” - Sheila A, Mixon, Executive Director, The Women’s Enterprise Business Council & Sr. Vice President, Business Development and Entrepreneurship, Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio
So, the experts agree… intentionality is key when setting goals for economic inclusion.
Is it working? Are we making progress? As a city and county, are more people getting a piece of the economic pie? Are they feeling more included?
“Well, The Port’s commitment in the past and even now is great. They want inclusion, like ‘hey this is a great opportunity to engage the African American network that I represent and allow us to invest in opportunities, in real estate development opportunities in the city, and I think that’s great The Port is championing that and that’s a fantastic thing to be doing.” - Michael Moore, President & Founder, Black Achievers
“And I think what we have to do is give The Port time, and its leadership, for everything that they’re doing to take ground and hold and then let’s just judge it on its results 48 months from now. And I bet the change that we see is what we all want to see.” - Albert Smitherman, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Jostin Construction