Chester County Economic Development Council approves strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion

UWCHLAN – The Chester County Economic Development CouncilThe Board of Directors has approved a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion. The plan has been developed by the organization over the past year Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusionand represents the contributions of more than 50 business and community leaders.

It includes initiatives to strengthen the business of minorities and women in Chester County, according to a press release opening the plan.

“We are aware of the obstacles that the underrepresented have long faced when it comes to access to capital, business connections, and mentoring and learning opportunities,” said Gary Smith, president of the Chester County Economic Development Council and CEO. “CCEDC is committed to working with industry partners and community leaders to build a comprehensive support and access system in Chester County.”

Among the initiatives included in the council’s plan are a “strategy for communications involving culture”, as well as internal training for staff and the board of the Economic Development Council. It also includes plans to set up a business support office in Coatesville, a historically underserved community.

In addition, the plan includes the development of a credit program in which priorities will be credited to businesses owned by minorities and women. The microloan program is scheduled for fall 2022.

The Chester County Economic Development Council is also exploring the possibility of becoming a Certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), which specializes in providing financial services to troubled communities and people who do not have access to finance.

“This is especially important to support minority-owned businesses that need capital to make their business plan a reality for themselves and their investors, and who may also be looking for commercial lease or ownership to grow their business,” said Gregory, founder and employee. Reeves. owner of Mosaic Development Partners, the statement said. “Access to such funding opportunities may seem like ‘data’ to many, but it has never been in the minority business community.”

Reeves is a founding member of the Working Group on Diversity Equality and Inclusion of the Chester County Economic Development Council, and a longtime partner of the Real Estate Council for minority businesses.

In February, the council launched a pilot program called New Business Champions, which is partly funded by the Chester County Workforce Development Council. The program offers free services to help businesses with an average of 1 to 8 employees develop important entrepreneurial skills in accounting, marketing, HR, law and more.

Participants receive a full assessment of business needs with program staff before working one-on-one with qualified experts in a variety of fields. In the application process, priority was given to underrepresented enterprises.

According to the council, the pilot course involves 51 businesses, including 26 minority-owned businesses, 23 women-owned businesses, seven business owners without higher education and seven business owners who set up the company after long-term unemployment. Nineteen businesses are serviced, from the city of Coatesville.

“The next phase of the program is currently being discussed with partners in the south of Chester County,” the release said.

Chester County Economic Development Council Adviser on Culture, Equality and Leadership Marrea Walker-Smith has worked with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council Task Force on research and strategic planning of new initiatives. Walker-Smith was appointed to the newly created position of DE&I consultant in April 2021.

Together with Michael Grigolonis, Director General of the Economic Development Council, Walker-Smith participated in the Chester County Cohort as part of the Federal Reserve’s annual Renewal of Our Communities curriculum to gain more knowledge to support minority businesses.

For more information, visit the Chester County Economic Development Council Task Force on Diversity, Justice and Inclusion

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