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"New" economy should leave no one out



Johnathan Holifield describes himself as the CEO and "chief evangelist" for inclusive competitiveness through his America21 Project.

Holifield’s work is not providing direct services to underserved communities. Rather, his mission is about putting pressure on a system to turn it around. And according to Holifield, a region’s expression of a message is the first step to creating change around that message.
 
According to Holifield, "Inclusive competitiveness" is about broadening existing competitiveness strategies to include a more diverse array of talent. Unfortunately, Holifield cites, African-American, Latino, and other minority Americans (who account for 29 percent of our population) are largely missing from the new economy, representing only 1 percent of venture capital investments.
 
A defining moment occurred for Holifield when he was appointed to the newly created position of Vice-President of New Economy Enterprise for the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce in 2000. As he looked around the field of economic development, he noticed, "There weren’t many people like me." While the fields of community and neighborhood development include some diverse talent, the "broad agenda, economic development industry lacks diversity at senior levels."
 
His work since that time focuses on addressing three strategic challenges. First, because of disparities in education and other opportunities, minorities disproportionately lack the skills and competencies to connect to innovation ecosystems and to make them attractive for investment or employment. Second, these populations lack contacts to the innovation network itself. And finally, minorities must not only be participants in this new economy, they must become high performers.
 
Holifield uses the acronym "TAPIM" to describe a philosophy of change. Thought and Advocacy lead to the expression of a new message. That message must be institutionalized through Policy -- whether legislation or community policy, such as the creation of programming at foundations or major institutions. Finally, with the implementation of that Policy, Investment and the Market will follow, because that’s what investment and markets do -- they arrive on the scene when new resources are released.
 
Holifield’s message for Detroit is simple: There is a great disparity. One-quarter of our regional population is African-American and only 2 percent of our gross regional product comes from African-American owned businesses. As a region, we’ve largely left African-Americans out of our plans for a competitive future -- and in an increasingly flat world, this is a colossal error. "You simply can’t afford to have so many uncompetitive citizens," says Holifield.
 
In both Cincinnati and Cleveland, Holifield has helped develop inclusive competitiveness strategies on a regional basis. This involves taking the programs and resources that a region is putting towards its own global competitiveness and making sure that they are connected to minority groups that are usually disconnected. "This isn’t so exotic and otherworldly," he says. "It simply extends out the successful practices that some parts of our community have experienced to other parts."
 
Johnathan is bringing his message and strategies to Detroit as a guest of Global Detroit. Please join us for a reception featuring Mr. Holifield on Thursday, May 10, at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Center, from 5-7 p.m. The event is free, but we ask for the favor of an RSVP to sarah.szurpicki@gmail.com.
 
Sarah Szurpicki works at the New Solutions Group, a Detroit-based public policy consulting firm. NSG serves, as part, as the staff for Global Detroit, an economic development effort centered on globalizing Detroit, partly by welcoming immigrants, funded by the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan.
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