How can inclusive business partnerships create economic opportunity for regional businesses and residents?
More than 15 years ago, Philadelphia looked at its incredible higher education institutions and saw a real opportunity for the city and region. Engaging college students off-campus and retaining them after they graduate could prepare Greater Philadelphia for the 21st century where college degrees were going to be crucial for our workforce and business growth.
While there is much to be excited about in the Philadelphia business community, there remains troubling metrics that indicate the city is far from reaching its full potential. In order for Philadelphia to be considered a world-class city, it must address its alarming poverty level and fundamental to that, there is a need to develop, attract, and retain both a talented workforce and employers that will create quality jobs and lead Philadelphia to those greater heights.
There are several notable programs that foster entrepreneurship in our schools and nurture emerging minority-, women-, disability-, and LGBTQ-owned business enterprises. These businesses will help fuel the economic engine that will help rebuild a broken educational system and get students to attain basic literacy, read at grade level and acquire the critical STEAM skills needed to compete in a global marketplace.
Today’s Philadelphia-area young business leaders are represented by all ethnicities and LGBTQ backgrounds. This diversity is our greatest strength in that we can appeal to such a heterogeneous population across the entire region. The region’s largest businesses should take advantage of this by targeting this wide demographic and do what they can to promote supplier diversity within their procurement processes in much the same way they seek diversity within their own workforces. The benefits to buyers are attaining a better understanding of the needs of different population segments through the inclusion of vendors into their ecosystems and developing the appropriate offerings, messages, and marketing platforms.
The Chamber’s own CEO Access Program, started by Comcast’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David L. Cohen, takes large and small minority-, women-, disability-, and LGBTQ-owned business relationships one step further by pairing CEOs. Not just a mentorship program, large business CEOs can help small business leaders make new contacts and improve aspects of their operations, but they also help guide them toward taking on leadership roles within their business circles. Indeed, part of the rigorous vetting process of being selected into CEO Access as a small business participant is demonstrating a predisposition toward giving back to the community. In the relatively short time CEO Access program has been in existence, small business CEOs have become large business mentors in the program. These leaders are giving back to the community, creating good jobs, and doing what they can to improve the quality of lives in our neighborhoods.