‘Manifesto’ destiny: colorblind economic development

Skin, deeper: A regional Equity Manifesto -- featuring industry-developed apprenticeships, scheduled wage increases and diverse viewpoints -- would serve Long Island economic development well, according to Rosalie Drago.
By ROSALIE DRAGO //

Cities across the nation are committing to an “Equity Manifesto,” not just as a matter of social fairness but a matter of economic survival.

Equity and inclusion, as they relate to economic development, mean ensuring that all people can fully participate in the creation of socioeconomic growth – and fully share in its benefits. So, as Long Island’s demographics shift and minority populations grow, where are we on this?

According to research conducted by national action institute PolicyLink, the economic imperative of equity collaboration at the regional level – where government, nonprofits, community-based organizations, education and industry can pool their strength and expertise – is the most effective place to scale.

To that end, Long Island already has its own equity manifesto, released along with The Long Island Equity Profile.

The State of Black Long Island Equity Council, convened by the Urban League of Long Island, developed the regional platform, recognizing equity as an economic imperative. The LI manifesto aims to help the region gain the benefits of inclusion, including “stronger and longer periods of economic growth, faster per-capita income growth” and better wages for people who grew up in lower-income families.

With change, whether it’s on a personal or regional level, taking action is always where you start. In the case of a regional equity manifesto, one impactful action would be the development of equity-focused guidelines – with real accountability measures – and their integration into local economic-development efforts.

Rosalie Drago: Equitable solution.

Economic developers wield the ultimate weapon when it comes to promoting a community’s financial health: jobs. When companies grow, they often seek out help from economic-development professionals, such as municipal ED offices and regional industrial-development agencies, and that triggers a flow of business- and workforce-development-focused funding.

When we choose to fund initiatives that are designed to create opportunities specifically for Long Islanders, we will truly start to experience sustainable economic prosperity.

You’ve heard the adage “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and it’s true – but only for the boats in the water. If you can’t get to the water, or you don’t have a boat, the rising tide will leave you dry.

Equitable and inclusive growth makes sure everyone has a way in, a sturdy vessel and the skills needed to navigate tricky waters.

How? Training programs, developed in partnership with industry, that deliver work experience and promise employment. Apprenticeships that allow people to earn while they learn, and to shift careers with less financial risk. Defined career pathways (with incremental pay increases) based on skill development. Diverse perspectives welcomed at the table, at every step, from planning and development to operation and measurement.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation report “The Business Case for Racial Equity” states that “beyond an increase in economic output, advancing racial equity can translate into meaningful increases in consumer spending and federal, state and local tax revenues, and decreases in social services spending and health-related costs.”

That sounds right. But if Long Island wants to gain the real benefits, a manifesto alone is not enough. Integrating the principles of that manifesto into our daily business decisions, though … that’s a good start.

Rosalie Drago is Long Island regional director for the Workforce Development Institute, a statewide nonprofit focused on job-creation and retention. The WDI pilots, supports and scales workforce-development initiatives that foster empowering careers for Long Islanders and a talented workforce for Long Island businesses.