'No one left behind': How to create an inclusive business ecosystem in Chicago

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Our Chicago Part 1: Creating inclusive business ecosystems
How can Chicago create an inclusive environment for small business growth and Black-owned businesses after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- 1968 was a tumultuous year in this country. The riots that following the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. prompted Chicago business leaders and Black pastors to create an organization called Chicago United.

It works to create diversity, equity and inclusion in the corporate community. The vision is a Chicago region that is the most inclusive business ecosystem in the country.

After more than 50 years, a pandemic and the fight for racial justice, how are things going?

Tiffany Hamel Johnson, the president and CEO of Chicago United, said minority businesses were "decimated" in 2020. And most of those who lost their jobs, were people of color. Now in late 2022, she said the employment numbers are building "back up" though complete recovery will take some time.

WATCH: Our Chicago Part 2

After more than 50 years, a pandemic and the fight for racial justice, how are things going?

Part of how Chicago United works to achieve it's mission is by fostering future future leaders.

"You can't have a pipeline and have people of color get on boards and in C-suites if you're not creating it from the entry level position." she said. "Corporate Inclusion Institute was created just to help that leader. Along with that we created the Emerging Leader Series this year along with a mid-level manager series that really help those, again, emerging leaders that are coming out, that need help with advancement and professional development."

Chicago United is holding its Bridge Awards Celebration on Nov. 16. The theme this year is the power of inclusion.

"We believe that coalitions and that the representation of everyone at the table. There's power in that," said Johnson. "No one left behind. There's enough for all of us."