Inclusiveness key to Mesa’s emerging innovation district

Slow-speed Mesa is no more. This year, the city landed several billion dollars worth of projects with blockbuster corporations like Apple, Dexcom and EdgeCore, adding another cherry to the end of a decade of technology and manufacturing growth.

Now, Mesa born Mayor John Giles is intent on fine tuning the city’s historic downtown into a world-renowned innovation district. It already claims the largest arts center in Arizona.

A key to attracting more talent, industry and innovation to the city center is to create a “very inclusive” atmosphere, the mayor told a group of business owners and other city players at an event hosted by Mesa this week to discuss how to make that happen.  

“The folks that think of Mesa as a non-diverse community aren’t from here,” said Giles, a second-term mayor. “This is not a vanilla monolithic community by any means.”

Inclusivity and diversity may be buzz words but they produce real results when it comes to recruiting talent and industry, said Giles, who has pledged with other city leaders to bring more inclusivity to the 36th largest city in the nation.   

Several local entrepreneurs and experts spoke at the event about the economic benefits of inclusivity including:

Most job seekers want a diverse workplace Sixty-seven percent of job seekers said a diverse workforce is an important factor when considering companies and job offers, according to Glassdoor research.

Employees want inclusivity emphasized Fifty-seven percent of employees want employers to do more to increase diversity, according to Glassdoor surveys.

Inclusive companies have higher cash flow More inclusive companies have a 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a 3-year period, research from global industry analyst Josh Bersin indicates.

Inclusive companies are more likely to outperform peers Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely, according to McKinsey studies.

Diverse companies are more likely to be innovation leaders Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market, Bersin’s research states.

The key speaker was Raveen Arora, a Mesa entrepreneur, philanthropist, humanitarian, diversity champion award winner, and the founder and CEO of Think Human Initiative that preaches a simple message, “treat others how you wish to be treated.”

Arora, who spent time as a poor refugee child in India working with Mother Theresa, said the magic of business success lies in doggedly pursuing a vision, not profits.

“A good leader is a work in process. We have to be fluid. We have to be flexible,” said Arora, who owns The Dhaba restaurant in Tempe, one of the first establishments in Arizona to provide gender-neutral restrooms.

“Today’s business leadership is not about being charismatic. It’s about humility,” he said.       
“True diversity and inclusion is about lifting others.”

The event was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, an international event that engages millions of people every year to take part in entrepreneurship activities to celebrate innovators who drive economic growth and expand human welfare.

Panelists included local entrepreneurs and experts Tishawnda Bellamy, a career advisor and owner of Touché Publishing; Violet Duncan, co-founder of Tony Duncan Productions; Joe Vadakkan, global practice leader of cloud security at Optiv; and Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Arizona State University.

Victoria Harker

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