‘The difference with Cleveland is that the racial tension was not a casual taste of it. it was outlandish.’
— Terrence Howard
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In Cleveland, Ohio, it used to matter whether you were black or white and the 1966 Hough Riots prove it. Yet nearly 50 years later, it is ethnic diversity that has become the city’s saving grace as it rebounds following the global financial crises.

July 1966 was a dark period in Cleveland’s history, riots across the city resulted in 30 critical injuries, 275 arrests and some 240 fires. Following this short period of racial upheaval were decades of disinvestment and job losses as people left the area. 

A recent report from the Brookings Institute however has ranked Cleveland 10th amongst 50 US metro areas on the road to recovery with plans for a new 100,000 square foot Medical Mart, a 230,000 square food convention centre and a $700 million downtown casino.

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson has sought to make “Cleveland a desirable, safe, a city in which to live, work, raise a family, shop, study, play and grow old”. More importantly he has sought to do this by “embracing the diversity of our citizens”. 

Apart from diversity policy which merely sound nice, the dollars in the bank point to diversity as responsible for propelling the city forward. Andrew Jackson of the Commission on Economic Inclusion reports that “the diversity spend within the region increased to just over $300 million in 2010, despite economic challenges”. 

Supplier diversity, workforce recruitment, retention/leadership development were the key actions that supported this successful diversity strategy. These are of course best-practice measures and the results are evidence of their value. Any business person and regardless of size; whether you run a local lawn-mowing run or head up a multinational enterprise, can implement this diversity plan:

  1. 1)Diversify your supplier network; not just for the cost saving benefit, but access product improvements and create equitable wealth distribution in the community

  1. 2)Workforce recruitment; does your employee base mirror your customer community; and if not, hire them

  1. 3)Retention and Leadership Development; actively promote diversity amongst all layers of your business leadership team and create development opportunities to make this possible

For most people, these already form part of the normal business process. However when focused on diversity, these actions will propel your business forward, fatten your bank account balance and position you as the leader in your industry.

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