Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, has been named to serve on a national steering committee for a U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative to improve economic equity and opportunity for people of color.
The goal is to engage hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses, chambers and trade associations to help make it happen.
With Minneapolis police officers now charged with the murder of George Floyd, America needs to use this as the turning point, he said.
“We all have much to learn from the senseless killing of George Floyd and this moment in the nation’s history—I know I do,” Hamer said. “I welcome this appointment as someone who doesn’t have all the answers, but who has a real desire to ensure that all Americans have access to an even playing field and a future defined by hope and opportunity.”
The U.S. Chamber unveiled the initiative last week in the midst of national outrage as a video went viral showing Floyd’s murder at the hands of four police officers on Memorial Day.
Call to the business community to take action
The goal of the initiative is to engage hundreds, if not thousands, of chambers, trade associations and companies to participate and improve racial equity in their communities, Hamer said.
He said, as a Jewish ‘kid’ from the Bronx, he was honored and humbled to be chosen for the committee.
“The opportunities offered by this country should be open and available to all Americans, not just some,” he said.
Employment rates tell the story
As part of the effort, the U.S. Chamber, representing more than 3 million businesses, will also promote policy at all levels of government to help effect change.
The initiative will focus on four areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice reform.
The numbers show the need for a renewed effort, said Suzanne Clark, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber in a statement announcing the initiative last week.
The unemployment rate is historically about twice as high for black Americans as for white.
“The combined impacts of the pandemic and economic crises have disproportionately hit disadvantaged communities, making this problem worse,” Clark said. “The chamber believes that the moral case for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is indisputable, and there’s overwhelming evidence that greater diversity benefits the American economy, businesses, communities and employees.”
Other programs to improve racial opportunity
The national initiative builds on other programs that U.S. Chamber has initiated or supports including:
-The U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management Initiative that works to move students of color into high demand careers.
-Partnering with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the Business Case for Racial Equality that emphasizes the positive economic aspects of racial justice and higher employment, like meaningful increases in consumer spending; federal, state, and local tax revenues; and decreases in social services spending and health-related costs.
-The Next-Gen Business Partnership, a collaboration with black colleges and universities to develop diverse business leaders by exposing students to new career opportunities and entrepreneurship, and encourage knowledge sharing among academics, business leaders, and trade associations.
Steering committee members from different industries, regions
In Hamer’s appointment to the steering committee, he joins five other business and chamber executives from different industries and geographies:
-John Harmon, founder, president, and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey
-Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers
-Vincent B. Orange, Sr., president and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce
-Carlos Phillips, president and CEO of the Greenville (South Carolina) Chamber of Commerce
-Matt Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation
Hamer also chairs the U.S. Chamber’s Commerce Committee of 100, a group of chamber executives that represent the perspectives and needs of chambers and their members to the national body.
As the president of the Arizona Chamber, Hamer has taken an international role in promoting Arizona to have strong relationships with trade and intellectual partner countries like Canada, China, Israel, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.