Greater Fort Wayne Inc. launches plan to add more diversity for local businesses

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Announced the launch of four initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion for local businesses in the community.  

This is in partnership with the Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and New Allen Alliance. The non-profit stated that it is time to take action and that this isn’t a final solution, but a starting point.  

“It’s so important and it’s long overdue,” said Brenda Gerber Vincent, Greater Fort Wayne’s vice president of community and corporate impact. “We have been in discussion for months talking about diversity, and inclusion, and how we can bring these programs not only to our membership but to the entire community. With the murder of George Floyd, we intentionally amplified and accelerated these programs.” 

One of the programs is the Leadership Fort Wayne Expansion initiative. This is a 38-year old program, but will now focus on giving unrepresented groups a seat at the table. 

“It’s time that it reflects our community, we are intentionally raising $16,000 to add eight seats for underrepresented leaders in our community,” said Vincent. “I think within the first hour, we raised over a thousand dollars, so we are well on our way to raising the $16000 to add the eight additional seats.” 

Those seats will be for people in the Black, Hispanic, and Burmese communities. Another initiative is a webinar series. During the pandemic, GFW Inc. partnered with Parkview Health to host webinars to assist businesses with the reopening. Now GFW Inc. will use that same method to educate the community about diversity and inclusion. 

“They’ll be topic related; we’ll pick six-eight topics,” said Vincent. “It’s time to start these conversations. We’ll have about a half an hour on education and then we will reserve 30-minutes for Q&A.” 

Vincent added that the webinars are geared towards organizations that do not have diversity officers on staff. A more intimate version of the webinar series will be the roundtable discussion. It will feature 10 CEOs or key leaders of local businesses who want to impact their community by creating more diverse organizations. 

“We’ll be diving deep in some of these important topics that we really need to be having. They are uncomfortable conversations, so in some way, they are difficult conversations,” said Vincent. 

The fourth and final initiative is the Bridge Program expansion. This was established in 2019 and is designed to help entrepreneurs bridge the gap between startup and success. GFW Inc. set a goal of adding 10-corporate sponsors to support additional entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds.  

WANE 15 did reach out to the Black Chamber of Commerce, but the chairman was unavailable for an interview. In a press release, he did state that the Black Commerce is proud to be part of making the Fort Wayne community stronger with initiatives designed to create a more inclusive environment. 

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