By: Shannon McClure
Director – Research, Greater Omaha Chamber
So much of what makes a city great isn’t about buildings – it’s about people. What residents value, how they want to live and what kind of work they want to do is what creates the identity of a city and its potential to grow. We can often get so caught in the day-to-day muck, that we forget that each moment could be THE moment.
Pick any city that you love to visit or have loved to live in. Got it? OK, now consider…
What’s the number one thing you admire about that city?
What was the point of inflection, the moment of truth, the top-of-the-roller coaster moment that launched that city into becoming what you admire so much?
Who lead that change?
In Omaha, we’re fortunate to have a small group of philanthropic individuals who are driven to make large, collective impacts in the forms of buildings and infrastructure as well as investing in people through scholarship programs. We can also count in the assets column the multitude of quality CEOs in our region who help propel us forward.
The third and most sturdy leg of the stool, however, are all of the rest of us who choose to live here.
Nine-hundred thousand strong, we the people of Greater Omaha make decisions every day about who we want to be as a region and how we want to grow. These decisions aren’t only made in the sweeping grand investments of new buildings or huge scholarship funds. These points of inflection happen in our everyday tasks, when we decide to spend our Saturday at a local festival instead of weekending in Kansas City. Or when we choose to grab coffee from that new neighborhood place that started up with nothing more than a dream, elbow grease and some good-tasting beans.
Or when we make sure that all employees have a chance to be mentored and cultivated, even those who may be different from us in one way or another.
We all want to do something big but we forget that most big things start from something very small. A “what-if?” or “wouldn’t it be cool to?” or “why don’t you join us?” approach.
At the Chamber, we think of this a lot within the context of helping make Greater Omaha a more inclusive community where everyone has the ability to prosper. When Greater Omaha’s CEOs were recently asked whether inclusivity and diversity is a priority for them, the overwhelming majority answered: not yet.
In 2015, nearly 1,500 people responded to a Greater Omaha Young Professional survey about what was important to them. Unsurprisingly (but still alarmingly), the data from this survey indicated that Black Young Professionals were five to six times less likely to recommend Omaha than any other ethnic or racial group.
In 2050, nearly 40 percent of our population will be minority, giving our region a great and rich cultural opportunity and a huge knowledge influx from people with national and global experiences. Given this, how are we as communities and businesses preparing ourselves for success?
When we pay attention to the data and listen to what each other are saying, we all begin to see a huge chance. A chance to expand our circles. A chance to learn from a new colleague’s business solutions from another market or hemisphere. A chance to make profitable business and economic development decisions that also deliberately include rather than exclude.
On November 15, Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser will visit Omaha to discuss the characteristics of fast-growing regions, and the role of economic inclusivity in making sure that Greater Omaha is one of those amazing growing regions.
If you’re looking for your top-of-the-roller-coaster moment, you just might find it on November 15th. Join us.