February 8, 2023

EDB continues to refine work program around DEI

Since 2020, the EDB board and staff have been striving to enhance and emphasize areas of its work program around DEI as well as service to BIPOC businesses. Last year, the EDB hired Rachel Askew and Grant Twyman of NEXT Consulting to help move that work ahead.

Their names likely sound familiar. The NEXT team led the training for the wildly successful Pierce County Business Accelerator. In 2021, the program graduated 200 small businesses – 90 percent of which are BIPOC owned.

Now, they’re helping the EDB to achieve three important goals by September 2023:

  • Strengthen partnerships with BIPOC business owners.
  • Enhance board member and investor development programs.
  • Engage with next-generation leaders.

At the EDB board retreat in November, brainstorming sessions led to subsequent work meetings with EDB staff that helped lay stones for the path ahead.

BIPOC businesses and leaders come together

In January, Askew and Twyman coordinated a business collaborative networking event that brought together nearly 30 Pierce County BIPOC small business owners, EDB staff and board members, and other Pierce County economic development partners.

The event offered a space where business owners could connect with a network of industry leaders and potential mentors. Small-group conversations focused on the challenges business owners are facing, along with potential barriers to reaching their goals for 2023.

“The EDB historically served and connected with primary businesses,” Askew said. “The business collaborative event provided our BIPOC business owners direct engagement with the EDB and incredible leaders that they otherwise wouldn’t have access or exposure to. It was really special.”

Participating EDB board members included:

Additional economic development partners in attendance included:

“The energy in the room was incredible,” EDB President Bruce Kendall said. “Board members, economic development partners and business owners were revved up and ready to share and connect. It was a big win on both sides.”

A robust roadmap

Askew and Twyman have a lot on their to-do list in the months ahead. Here’s a rundown:

  • Develop a Board Asset Matrix. A formal survey will help determine the current makeup of the EDB board and support completion of the first Board Asset Matrix. “We’ll look at who we currently have on the board and who we need,” Askew said. “We’re talking about demographic as well as industry diversity.”
  • Create a Board Taskforce. During the second and third quarters of 2023, a seven-member taskforce will be created to develop two vital components:
      • A Value-added proposition that defines the purpose of the EDB and communicates why a BIPOC business owner would want to join the board.
      • A Board Buddy Program. This formalized onboarding process will help create a sense of belonging for new board members who are trying to get plugged in.
  • Support economic development in the BIPOC business community. One-to-one meetings with BIPOC organizations throughout Pierce County will determine what business owners need and what support the EDB can provide.
  • Launch a Board Mentorship Program. A pilot program is slated for second quarter 2023. Mentees from the pilot will be invited to attend the EDB Annual Meeting on May 3 and board retreat in October.
  • Resurrect investor briefings, with a DEI spin. The NEXT team plans to re-engage with investors in a way that goes beyond asking for money. An investor event at the Port of Tacoma is tentatively planned for September.
  • Develop next-gen leaders. Access points need to be created for Pierce County’s young emerging leaders. An event is slated for third quarter 2023, and EDB Board members will be asked to invite next-gen leaders from their own organizations to attend the EDB Annual Meeting and investor briefing.

“We have a lot of to do in a short amount of time, but we’re really excited about what’s ahead,” Askew said. “The EDB has already laid a great foundation for our team to help build upon, and this board is ready for impact.”

Watch for more updates about this evolving work in upcoming issues of Onward.


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