BRAC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion work is grounded in the understanding that more inclusive opportunities for all people in the region will propel growth, attract business, and enhance quality of life. Strong performance across measures of economic inclusion – like poverty rate; household income; educational attainment; and workers in management positions – are closely correlated with stronger economic growth. Communities that score high on these measures experience a virtuous cycle, while communities that score low, like the Baton Rouge Area currently does, fall behind. As the lead economic development group for the Baton Rouge Area, BRAC is committed to doing more to understand and remove systemic barriers to opportunity and success, and realize the truly inclusive economy and community that Baton Rouge deserves.
BRAC’s Definition of Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion means not just tolerance but the intentional pursuit by any group, organization, or business – through its employment practices, membership, activities, and those it serves – to reflect and represent the population of its community without compromising its commitment to its mission.
It means not just the absence of discrimination in a community, but a welcoming recognition of the value added to the community through the participation of individuals with different perspectives and from all backgrounds.
With this definition as a foundation, BRAC’s Diversity and Inclusion committee crafted what might be called a “business case” for diversity and inclusion, consisting of elements like:
- Cities and regions that embrace diversity create an atmosphere of openness that improves their competitiveness in attracting and retaining businesses, talent, clients and customers.
- Businesses that value diversity and inclusion similarly attract and retain the best talent, form a stronger bond with the whole community, and develop greater knowledge of the needs of wider varieties of clients and customers.
- Greater minority business ownership creates greater access to wealth creation in minority communities, greater community reinvestment, and greater access to employment.
- By reflecting the population of their community, businesses help expand the number of clients and customers they seek to serve, which is the foundation for improved sales, increased profitability, and future growth.
With the partnership of engaged regional business leaders and partner organizations, BRAC works on the following initiatives related to diversity and inclusion:
Launched in May 2019, BR-POP helps connect small, local, disadvantaged businesses to procurement opportunities from larger partner organizations. Inspired in part by Cincinnati, where public-private partnerships and business-led collaborations serve as major catalysts for profound community improvements, BRAC helped create BR-POP with some of the region’s leading private businesses and major universities to help expand opportunities and foster the development and growth of local veteran, women, and minority owned small businesses.
BR-POP also serves as a vehicle for public entities and private businesses, working together on a voluntary basis, to bring intentionality and focus that enhance diversity and inclusive competitive practices to their procurement of goods and services from area vendors.
In just its first year, more than 45 contracts or purchase orders have been awarded, with an aggregate total value of more than $5 million.
BRAC hosts an annual event to discuss diversity and inclusion in a business context, and to provide thought leadership to the region’s business community on the topic. The event, launched in 2016, is an extension of BRAC’s work promoting a definition and business case for the benefits of diversity and inclusion, and features national experts providing insight on key topics and best practices.
To highlight exceptional best practices taking place in the Baton Rouge Area, BRAC honors and recognizes regional businesses that have championed diversity and inclusion at their businesses or in the community with an annual award.
BRAC’s Diversity Star Award was launched in 2018. Read about past honorees:
- City Year Baton Rouge
- BASF Geismar
- Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge
- ExxonMobil Baton Rouge
- Lighthouse Louisiana
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
- Civil Solutions Consulting Group
- Republic Services of Baton Rouge
BRAC assists companies that are seeking to start or formalize their internal diversity business programs, or to take them to the next level
BRAC helps companies that want to develop and foster conversations about race and racial equity in a partnership with Dialogue on Race LA.
Small businesses interested in applying for a loan through the RLF may contact TruFund Business Development Officers Jay Gaudet at email@example.com or Juan Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Small businesses can also call the TruFund Louisiana office line at (504) 293-5550 or visit trufund.org. BRAC and TruFund will seek local lending partners to assist in connecting regional business owners with funding opportunities.
Data on Disparity
BRAC conducted a benchmarking exercise to compare the Capital Region against some 40 peer metropolitan areas. Across a broad swath of indicators measuring a region’s relative strength for economic inclusion, broken down by race, the Baton Rouge Area performs in or very near the bottom half of every list. This data serves as the benchmark against which progress in the coming years will be measured.
BRAC has fostered a goal to promote the business case for diversity and inclusion throughout its current five-year strategic plan, and is actively planning to broaden that engagement in the work of the next strategic plan to be incorporated into every program and initiative across the organization. Internally, the work is led by BRAC’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. BRAC investor organizations are welcomed to engage in the work by contacting Darrell L. Johnson, Jr. at email@example.com.