Diversity and inclusion have been a unifying goal in Ames and Story County for several years, but implementing a real cultural shift has become more imperative now than ever before. At the Ames Chamber of Commerce, we are mindful of how important this conversation is to our community moving forward and while we have been advocates for inclusion for many years, we know we can, and must, do more.
Our organization is currently working to pull together a comprehensive list of minority-owned businesses in Story County. By developing this list, we can open the line of dialogue and learn how we can support our business owners of color. We anticipate our conversations will bring a new awareness of needs and unique differences minority-owned businesses owners face on a day-to-day basis that we haven’t previously recognized. Once we have a better understanding of these needs, we will work to develop programming specific to meeting those needs and supporting them. When all businesses in Story County flourish, so does our community. We are dedicated to supporting our locally minority-owned businesses; however, we must listen before we act and this is the first step toward doing just that.
Not only have we been called to support our community’s business owners of color, we have also been called to help raise awareness and educate the greater community on why these issues are important and how we can all help.
Since the inception of our Symposium on Building Inclusive Organizations three years ago, our members and attendees of the event have called for smaller discussion-based events with the same mission. We are working to develop a series of discussion-based roundtables for business and community leaders to engage with each other and develop the tools they need to further enhance inclusivity in their workplaces and throughout Ames and Story County.
Fostering an inclusive community is not the work of one organization, person, or group. It is the responsibility of us all. As individuals, we know that being intentional in developing a more inclusive community is the right thing to do. It just makes sense. Who doesn’t want to feel safe and respected in their communities and to be accepted for who they are? Creating a welcoming community is an ongoing discussion and process, and everyone’s responsibility. We must all listen, and we must all continue to learn.
If you are looking for resources to get started, check out the Ames Public Library, the NAACP, Ames Pride, the City of Ames Human Relations Commission and the Iowa State University Office of Diversity & Inclusion. All of these organizations have some incredible resources to help us continue to build community, foster mutual respect, and ensure equality of rights for all.