Opinion: Northeast Ohio’s construction industry can be national model in achieving equity

by | Oct 7, 2020

Glen Shumate (guest columnist), Cleveland.com

CLEVELAND — Over the last several months, cities across the country have been part of a national conversation related to racial justice. As a Black man who grew up in Cleveland, I understand and share the concerns of so many in our community who have experienced the effects of systemic racism. As a senior executive with our region’s leading construction association, I know part of the solution to the injustices that exist as a result of that systemic racism lies in being intentional about removing barriers to education, meaningful career paths and economic success for people of color.

The 2015 Community Benefits and Inclusion agreement with the city of Cleveland, led by Mayor Frank Jackson, was a promising effort to encourage economic growth by creating a more equitable and inclusive local economy. It promoted diversity goals, efforts to build mentor-protégé relationships, and contract opportunities for minority- and female-owned businesses and small business enterprise contractors. It outlined engagement efforts with unions, contractors and owners to meet or exceed workforce goals for minorities and females.

It was an important step in the right direction.

Our local construction industry is not immune to the effects of structural racism and systemic inequality embedded throughout our society. Intentionally or otherwise, we have normalized barriers to fair, equitable chances to compete for people of color and women.

These structural disadvantages are relics of an era whose time has passed. What must we do to build an inclusive construction ecosystem in Northeast Ohio that would make us the standard-bearer for a more equitable construction industry?

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