It is time: An important discussion in Owensboro

It’s time.

It is time for our community to stand up for what is right. It is time for our leaders to lead with action. Now is the time to show our friends and neighbors that we respect each other and welcome each other to the table. All are welcome. Our nation is having an important conversation and waking up to broadened horizons and new perspectives. Shouldn’t Owensboro participate? Our business leaders should know that diversity is the heart of a strong, forward thinking organization. It brings different approaches to solving problems and understanding issues. In business, if you solve problems, you find success.

Very personally, I hope three things result from this discussion in our community. First, we need to remove the statue at the Daviess County Courthouse that honors Confederate “heroes.” There is nothing honorable about our country’s history of slavery and the fight to keep that system intact. Our history is important. It should all be learned from, but which portion is honored is critical. Let’s have this lesson provided by the Confederate soldier statue take place in museums and classes, not in a place that allows for the “history lesson” to be so easily misinterpreted. We have transformed our downtown and riverfront to be an area that everyone should be proud to spend time and enjoy the benefits of a decision to spend their tax dollars on development. It is truly special. So why not make it a place of pride for everyone in Owensboro? Did our black community not spend their tax dollars on the redevelopment as well? This is an easy fix. Make it right quickly. It’s time.

Second, Madison Silvert told us in his remarks to Rooster Booster at the end of his tenure at the Economic Development Corporation that Owensboro would not succeed without an intentional focus on increasing the diversity of our community and its businesses. As a Chamber of Commerce, we know that talent recruitment and retention in Owensboro can be hampered by a lack of diversity. Job creators and innovators want to live in a community where everyone is welcome. At EM Ford, we are excited about the team we have built, but continue to look toward the future and how to constantly improve. As we experience continued growth, we will be intentional about our desire to add diversity to our organization. We will benefit from it. Our clients will benefit from it and hopefully we can be an additional example of businesses and organizations in Owensboro that understand the significance of Madison’s guidance years ago. It’s time.

Finally, I hope that the discussion results in a better understanding of the obstacles (education, resources, family support, etc.) that exist for those who start life in a less advantageous position. There are fabulous stories of individuals who have overcome and succeeded, but there are so many more of people overwhelmed by the weight of those obstacles or at least unable to make significant progress even with commendable effort. My wife and I will work to make sure that our children understand the value of helping to remove obstacles and how easily they could make a difference in someone’s future. My faith tells me that all are welcome at His table. I plan to more intentionally follow that example. I hope Owensboro will as well. Now is the time.

W. Clay H. Ford is the Chair-Elect of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce board of directors and a partner at EM Ford.  Messenger-Inquirer