As I reflected on our Executive Memo this week, it was really hard for me to bring words to the feelings I have about the issues facing our nation, our state, and the communities across North Carolina. While there are many things to look forward to, the environment of continued racial injustice leaves a pain in my heart.
Racial injustice has no place in our society, no place on our shop floors, no place in our board rooms, no place in our workplaces, and no place in our communities. What happened in Minneapolis, the death of George Floyd, is unconscionable and the reverberations being felt since are raw, impacting all of us in different ways.
Unfortunately, the issue of race is not new for our nation. I recognize that, from my personal perspective, I have no way to fully understand how painful and difficult that reality is for many North Carolinians. I also recognize that in my position as president of your state chamber of commerce, I have access to tremendous leaders from diverse experiences and backgrounds, and can engage and utilize our solid relationships to serve as a convener, foster real dialogue, and take meaningful action.
The mission of the NC Chamber is to research, develop, advocate, and communicate for solutions and polices that produce a nationally competitive business climate in North Carolina. Acknowledging and addressing, with actionable tasks, the complex issues around race is critical to fulfilling that mission.
Many of your businesses have been working to make diversity and inclusion a priority and the NC Chamber is no different. We have been taking steps to ensure our team, volunteer leadership, and workplace environment better represents the diverse membership we serve. I personally will be going through the process to become a Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and encouraging the rest of our leadership team to do the same. This is a priority and a journey that must forever be woven into the fabric of our organization’s culture and there is room to do more. We continue to take action and maintain our resolve, one relationship at a time.
In the coming weeks, I will be sitting down with Donald Thompson, CEO of NC Chamber Cornerstone member Walk West, to have an honest conversation about race, diversity and inclusion initiatives, our personal perspectives, and more. Donald’s team has created The Diversity Movement to educate people from all walks of life on the importance of fostering a community of inclusivity.
The conversation Donald and I have will be released as a podcast and it will be the first in a series as we pair business leaders from different backgrounds and perspectives for unfiltered, crucial conversations on the actions necessary to catalyze real change.
Racial injustice has been discussed for generations and while real, meaningful change will not come instantly, it is beyond time for action. Who better to begin to determine actionable steps than the diverse, innovative, thoughtful leaders who are creating the jobs that build our state’s communities?
North Carolina’s rich diversity of industry is what makes us a beacon for economic prosperity. More importantly though, it is the diversity of the people who own, manage, and work for businesses that fuel our continued success. Progress on racial injustice will be made through the engagement of the private sector – in our workplaces, shop floors, and board rooms, through policies that create economic opportunities for people to have meaningful work that creates healthy communities.
The debates of the past have clearly not instigated the change we need to make real progress toward eradicating these injustices. Through speaking with many of you this week, it is clear that our members stand committed to action. I am confident that through our crucial conversations, concrete actions will emerge, they will be fulfilled, and we each will hold one another accountable in achieving real change and progress.
Gary J. Salamido
President and CEO
The NC Chamber is hosting its Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Conference
virtually on Thursday, June 11. Learn more.