Archive for October 2008

• BL²END Featured in Local News Stories

BL²ENDBL²END (Business Leaders Linked  to Encourage New Directions) is a great organization in West Michigan that helps young professionals of color get networked into the community and grow professionally.  BL²END has recently been featured in stories by two news outlets.  Today’s Grand Rapids Press has an article about a BL²END professional development event held earlier this week. Click Here.  While BL²END’s goal is to help young professionals of color, it welcomes everyone to participate in its events. 

In addition to the story in the Press, WZZM recently interviewed two of BL²END’s board members.  You can watch the inteview by clicking here.

To learn more about BL²END, visit its website at

• Chamber Recognizes Warner Attorney for Diversity Efforts (updated)

Grand Rapids Area Chamber of CommerceThe Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has selected Warner Norcross & Judd’s Rodney Martin as its Volunteer of the Month for October.

Martin is the firm’s Diversity Partner and chair of its Financial Services Group, as well as cochair of the Privacy and Information Security Taskforce.

Jeanne Englehart, president of the chamber, said Martin was selected for the honor based on his dedication to and support of the Multiracial Association of Professionals and the Regional Cultural Competency Advisory Council. He is the current chair of the MAP Advisory Council and participated in the planning for the chamber’s Minority Intern Welcome Reception.

“Your commitment to the MAP program and your involvement with the Regional Cultural Competency Advisory Council has been invaluable,” Englehart said. “You truly deserve this recognition.”

Martin will be honored at the chamber’s Oct. 21 board meeting and featured in the organization’s newsletter, The Chamber News.


Here are the remarks Rodney Martin made to the Chamber’s Board of Directors at its meeting on October 21:

I believe that we in Grand Rapids allow ourselves an easy out when we talk about recruiting and retaining employees of color.  We often blame our inability to attract and retain diverse candidates on the fact that we are recruiting for Grand Rapids.  In doing so, we perpetuate the self-defeating myth that Grand Rapids is a community that could not appeal to persons of color. 

That excuse doesn’t wash, however.  It doesn’t wash for at least two reasons:

First, it paints a inaccurate picture of our community.  The Grand Rapids Public Museum reports that over 60 ethnic groups call Grand Rapids home.  Their families came from all over the world to settle in west Michigan.  It is this rich diversity that attracted to locate 400 new jobs in our community.  Nearly 20 percent of our population is made up of persons of color.  While that is below the national average, it still very significant, and the number is growing.  The key for the Grand Rapids Business Community is to tap into the richness of our diverse backgrounds so we can present to new employees of color a welcoming community in which they can quickly feel at home.  And that is the mission of MAP.

The second reason this old excuse won’t wash is simply that if we continue as a community to perpetuate the myth and satisfy ourselves with the status quo, we will quickly find ourselves less and less able to compete in the new economy — a global, knowledge-based economy. If we want to compete in the global economy, we have to build a community that celebrates its diversity, a community that welcomes talented people of every race and color and allows them to contribute to our region’s future and to share in its success.

It is incumbent upon us as business leaders to refuse to continue to use our community as an excuse for our failure to recruit and retain persons of color.  We must instead recognize that our diversity is a great resource that can fuel our economic success.  We have to increase our awareness and appreciation of our cultural diversity and improve our ability to use that diversity as an asset to our region.  The Chamber and the West Michigan Chamber Coalition recognize this and are actively addressing it through the work of the Regional Cultural Competency Advisory Council, on which I am honored to serve.

I am grateful to the Chamber for its foresight and for its leadership, and for giving me the opportunity to contribute through MAP and the Regional Cultural Competency Advisory Council.  And I appreciate very much this recognition as volunteer of the month.