The ethnic and racial diversity that is among Arlington’s principal characteristics is benefiting from some very positive initiatives.
One of those efforts has created a collaboration between the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce and thus expanded the mission of inclusion countywide.
About two years ago, leaders of the Arlington chamber reached out to some members with a focus on the chamber’s mission of serving the city’s businesses and the broader community.
The result was the Community Influence Leaders Roundtable, a new committee of the chamber that will hold monthly meetings.
A principal leader in the effort, retired Navy chaplain Richmond Stoglin, explains the Roundtable’s motivation:
“We are not a monolithic organization. We want to move the city forward. While certainly interested in social justice issues, our main focus is to help build success via economic opportunity.”
Among those credited with advancing the mission is Arlington Chamber chief executive officer Michael Jacobson.
His former role in the Fort Worth Chamber provided a connection with Devoyd Jennings, president and chief executive of the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber.
“Michael’s interest in involving us,” Jennings said, “puts meaning in the ‘metropolitan’ part of our chamber’s name. As a result, we are now fully engaged in working together for everyone to have an opportunity to be a part. This sort of thing has never existed before, and we are very pleased to be included.”
Jennings regularly attends the Arlington Roundtable meetings. When he can’t, former Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders, Fort Worth’s go-to leader in building successful collaborations among the community’s diverse populations, stands in.
The Roundtable’s goals are very ambitious. The organization’s strategic plan extends its agenda through 2021.
The Roundtable supports economic sustainability and “diversification of our economic base with a collective business focus.”
And “to reach our full economic potential, we as community leaders must move forward in an atmosphere of inclusiveness.”
To help, Stoglin explains, “We are bringing in a plethora of top-flight speakers, including political and community leaders, and engaging them proactively in our work together.”
Leaders who have responded to date include Congressman Joe Barton, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Michael Glaspie, City Manager Trey Yelverton, Deputy City Manager Theron Bowman and Police Chief Will Johnson.
A recent ordinance drafted by the Roundtable targeting 25 percent of city contracts to qualified minority and disadvantaged businesses was adopted by the Arlington City Council.
In a historic occasion arranged by the executive committees of the Arlington Chamber and the Fort Worth Black Chamber, their leaders met and exchanged membership credentials, making their reciprocity agreement official.
Williams summed it up: “It’s about partnership. In this complicated world, we need to work together.”
Next the collaboration plans to expand and include the public school districts, Tarrant County College and UT Arlington.
“We are opening the doors for inclusion and leaving no one out who wants to be a positive participant,” Stoglin said. “This is for real.”
The enthusiasm among these community leaders suggests success is in the offing.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor who served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. He is on the Arlington Chamber of Commerce board of directors.