INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indy Chamber is rolling out a pilot program, Business Equity for Indy.
The groundwork for this program began in 2020, the same time the state was dealing with the impact of COVID-19 and crime.
Indy Chamber representatives say if Indianapolis is to see further economic development, people have to address existing racial disparities. Growing only one side pocket of the population doesn’t mean much if people are ignoring issues with intergenerational poverty and the lack of access to opportunity for another pocket of the population.
Uncertainty and unrest have a way of moving the needle forward.
Taylor Hughes, vice president of policy and strategy at Indy Chamber, said, “The business community came together in response to the disproportionate impact of COVID, and the high-profile killings we saw in the summer of 2020 and said it’s past time we have a collective response to racial equity.”
Specifically, the goal is to address racial equity in business. The Indy Chamber and the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership developed the two-year, five-stage Business Equity in Indy workforce pilot program. It will support 30 small- and medium-sized businesses as they implement strategies to reduce disparities and drive equity.
They will work with the IU Kelley School of Business and the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI to bring in national best practices and experts to guide them along the way.
“It really comes down to the company itself. What can a company do for its own employees, the people that they touch the most?” Hughes said.
Several challenges and key issues face businesses: filling job openings with diverse talent, expanding the educational workplace pipeline, and supplier procurement.
Many larger companies have the money and manpower to do this type of work on their own. But for smaller companies who recognize the challenges and don’t have to means, the program could help them.
“There can’t be continued economic growth unless you deal with economic disparities, racial disparities,” Hughes said. “You can’t have one side of your community and economy growing like gangbusters, and the other side really, really struggling with intergenerational poverty, lack of access to opportunities.”
The deadline to apply for one of the 30 spots is the end of August. The program is funded by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation and the Lumina Foundation.