Opinion

The business case for equity

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The economy works best for all when all can participate. As LEAP continues to lead local economic development efforts, the importance of a truly equitable approach is essential.

Intentional focus on equity means understanding the unique barriers faced by different groups to create targeted solutions to address them, ensuring all members of our community have the support they need to access resources and opportunities for equal economic success.

Attention to barriers faced by historically underrepresented and underserved populations — like people of color — is essential to equitable economic development because these groups have faced systemic barriers to full economic participation.

The economic case for addressing inequity is clear. Since 2000, reports show the U.S. economy lost an estimated $16 trillion due to discrimination. By addressing the racial wealth gap by 2028 alone, studies show the GDP in the U.S. stands to grow by an estimated $1.5 trillion — or 6% of its current level. BuiltIn has also aggregated more than 80 statistics outlining the benefits of striving for diverse, inclusive workplaces, from increased innovation to higher revenue.

The data are clear: diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords. They’re good business.

The Department of Equitable Economic Planning at LEAP has a strategic approach to equitable economic development in Greater Lansing, involving three focus areas:

Enhancing business ownership

DEEP’s programmatic focus will primarily support enhanced business ownership for historically underserved groups by converting businesses classified as DBAs to LLCs, which increases the business’s longevity beyond the owner’s lifespan, the ability to secure more capital.

 

Community need

Community collaboration is essential as we build the foundation for DEEP’s work. Meeting the needs of disenfranchised communities requires listening to the voices of those who actively encounter systemic barriers to understand how best to dismantle those barriers and empower our communities for success. As a first step, we are helping support and reconstitute business organizations specifically focused on Black and LatinX communities.

Diversity, equity & inclusion

Reflecting on internal policies will help us understand what we’re doing well as an organization and how we can improve. There is always room to grow and learn, especially as we invite unheard voices to the conversation.

The starting points for policy include the review of LEAP’s diversity, equity and inclusion statement and strategically allocating our discretionary Business Accelerator Fund to support  BIPOC and other underrepresented founders, who historically secure less funding.

LEAP’s long-term vision is for DEEP to play an instrumental role in helping Greater Lansing be known for its inclusivity and equity. There’s value in a human-centered approach for economic development. Going a step further to prioritize equity ensures all people are at the center of our efforts, not just those who have historically been centered.

Diversity, equity and inclusion have long been a priority at LEAP, but events in 2020 like the murder of George Floyd and disparities in COVID-19 response that disadvantaged BIPOC communities brought these issues to the forefront of our collective consciousness.

These events catalyzed a societal inflection point that made tangible solutions more accessible as visibility of historic, systemic inequity was expanded. Simply put, the more buy-in equity programming has from community leaders, the easier it is to get things done and done quickly.

Addressing systemic inequity against specific populations, such as BIPOC, has a tangible benefit for everyone. Solving issues that plague one demographic can always be scaled and applied to other demographics. Centering equity provides a holistic solution to barriers of all types that affect all people, allowing us to build our economy stronger, together.

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