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State business group studies racial equity

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A state business group is wrapping up the research-gathering portion of a multi-state research project about racial equity from a business perspective.

The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry is holding two focus groups this month with some state business leaders to gather information about the impacts of equal opportunity on businesses and the issues about racial equity barriers or challenges that still exist.

The meetings are part of an information collection and research project that began in New Mexico in August 2019 in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The other states and regions participating are Michigan and Mississippi, as well as the District of Columbia, where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is based. The chamber received a $1 million grant for the project that runs from May 2019 to October 2020.

“It is important to get a business perspective about issues of race and issues of equality of opportunity as it relates to our economy, our educational systems and our housing systems, et cetera,” said Rob Black, president and chief executive officer of the state association based in Albuquerque. “The issues are how do we make sure that we are involving all New Mexicans in our economy going forward because that is where we are going to have a lot more strength, a lot more, broader workforce to tap into, as well as customer bases.”

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About 12 “strategy sessions” or focus groups have been held targeting specific but diverse groups of business leaders from various industries. Some of the cities where they have occurred are Las Cruces, Grants, Farmington, Clovis, Hobbs, Lovington and Roswell, said Black. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, two more “virtual” meetings are planned for this month.

Black said that the needed participants for those already have signed up, although there could be a couple of more spots available in the July 24 meeting.

A national town hall sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce occurred in June with thousands of participants, and Black said he anticipates that more New Mexico business leaders will be asked to participate during policy development efforts. He expects those to occur after the current research project concludes and the findings are shared by a report or other means.

He said that the strategy sessions have given business leaders and representatives of the New Mexico association a chance to hear frank talk on topics that often aren’t discussed among business people.

“I think it is important to listen to others’ lived experiences,” said Black. “I was born and raised in Lovington, grew up there, but my experiences growing up in the southeast are very different from someone growing up in Gallup or Santa Fe.”

The Kellogg Foundation has three primary funding priorities: thriving children, working families and equitable communities.

In 2018, the foundation released an updated version of its “Business Case for Racial Equality” report. The issue brief concludes that the U.S. gross domestic product would grow $8 trillion by 2050 if people of color earned the equivalent of white earners. In 2018, people of color earned 63% of the income earned by white people, or about $25,000 on average compared to $40,000.

A 2018 report for New Mexico found that Hispanics earned about 59% of white residents, while Native Americans earned about 46%. Closing the wage gap in New Mexico was projected to increase the state’s economy by $93 billion by 2050.

“Closing the gap” of inequality involves more than wages, according to the report. It includes alleviating, and eventually eliminating, disparities in health access, educational opportunity, fairness in the criminal justice system and access to safe and quality housing.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

 

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.