A few weeks ago, I attended a conference in Nashville, TN. The meeting was instructive on several fronts. First is the resurgence in Nashville itself. The Mayor himself addressed our group and talked about the investments that the city made in a new convention center downtown, built during the recession. He reminded us that they saved millions of dollars in interest by getting bond funding during this time, and created 7000 construction jobs during the worst of the recession. It’s an amazing story of political and financial foresight and bravery!
The mayor also talked about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the revitalization of Nashville. Like many other Southern cities, Nashville is culturally and ethnically diverse, and they are working hard to make sure that all their citizens have the education and skills necessary to take advantage of the new jobs that are emerging.
The theme of the conference was Diversity, and we learned about efforts going on across the country to recruit, educate, train and employ immigrants and citizens of varying cultures and ethnicities.
This makes so much sense to me because one important tenet of innovation is diversity – simply put, the more diversity in a team, the better their ideas. Or, to use Peter Vigue’s slogan for Cianbro, “None of us is as good as all of us.”
When you live in a state with a predominantly white, aging and declining population, you see the problem right away. Diversity? What diversity? It’s been an amazing uphill struggle to accept and integrate the tiny Somali community into Portland and Lewiston-Auburn. The Native American communities in the state are marginalized, both by geography, education, and prejudice.
This all ties into the immigration bill now before Congress, our ongoing handwringing about the shortage of STEM degree holders, and the alleged skills gaps.
At the end of the day, places like Maine need to decide whether they are happy just being a retirement home, or whether we want to work to attract young people from all over the world.