In June, the Billings Chamber Board of Directors unanimously voted to adopt “Diversity and Inclusion” as one of the Chamber’s top priorities. This is a statement to our commitment to become a stronger and better organization and help our community to do the same. But what does this mean for our membership and community? There are many paths we could take forward, and many are being considered. But, most importantly, we’ve committed to start. This is a large, passionate issue touching healthcare, housing, morals, social services and hundreds of years of history. We are bound to stumble, make a misstep, and correct our path as we move forward. But we must start somewhere. Now! So, we have partnered with 500 other Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations across the country to support the U.S. Chamber’s Equality of Opportunity initiative. This partnership began our discussion around concrete actions that can be taken by government and the private sector to address inequality through education, employment, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice reform.

As a partner on this important national initiative, the Billings Chamber will host local dialogues to further the discussion. We’re fortunate that an incredible group of individuals has volunteered to serve on a Steering Committee to help guide us as we determine actions to take that are appropriate for the Billings community. The people guiding us are passionate, intelligent and committed, and we’re grateful for their support, service and guidance. (See below for the list of individuals serving on the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee).

Diversity, inclusion, and being a welcoming community to all people is a topic of utmost importance, and it is critical as our community listens, learns and evolves. Our community’s quality of life for all, the ability to find good employees, and our safety depend on us being better.

Collectively, we must do more to be a welcoming and inclusive community. Recently, 248 of you responded to a Billings Chamber survey about Billings being a welcoming community for diverse populations.

72% of our membership agreed “Billings must do more to allow people of color, differing religions and races and LGBTQ+ populations to feel welcome and safe.”

We are grateful to everyone who thoughtfully responded to our survey by providing specific actions that we can accomplish to become better. And, we’re not done listening and learning. If you proudly belong to an under-represented minority population in Billings (race, sexual orientation, cultural diversity, etc), and/or if you’re passionate about playing a positive role in this movement, please let us know at BillingsChamber.com/ EqualityOfOpportunity.

Accepting all people is an issue of human decency. It’s also an economic imperative. We are working toward a post-pandemic community where businesses thrive; its resident-workforce is healthy, happy and successful; and a place where families and individuals want to relocate. Many across the country may be looking to relocate to communities that are healthy, safe, accepting and less crowded destinations. Being under the Big Sky can be a motivating factor, but it’s not enough. To become nationally competitive for talent and entrepreneurship, Billings must be “Open for All.” The path forward requires our community to do better by seeking to listen, learn and improve, and securing equality in all areas of work.

THANK YOU TO OUR STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS:

MEHMET CASEY
CARMELITA DOMINGUEZ
D’VAUGHN HAYES
YOWLAWNDA HENDRY
JEFFERY JOHNSON
KODY CHRISTENSEN LINTON
JOHNNIE MCCLUSKY
MIKE NELSON
JULIE SEEDHOUSE

JOHN BREWER (not pictured)

HEATHER MCDOWELL (not pictured)

34 SEPTEMBER 2020 – NOVEMBER 2020 | LiNK BUSINESS QUARTERLY