On Thursday, July 23, LVGEA President and CEO Jonas Peterson joined Urban Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Ken Evans and Vegas Chamber CEO Mary Beth Sewald for a conversation called “Creating Equitable Communities.” The discussion centered on social justice and economic development.
Evans said the conversation was necessary to “reach a common understanding and ultimately improve social and economic conditions for everyone in our Southern Nevada region.” The group’s goals were to model how to have a civil conversation in order to reach a mutual understanding about this sensitive subject. In addition, the hosts wanted to identify the root causes of social injustices and economic inequities that have been historically perpetuated.
Peterson shared data about the problem of inequitable and discrimination as evident in the striking figures. He discussed gaps in generational wealth, income levels, and employment. “It is abundantly clear that we must do better with wealth, income, and employment to create more equality,” he said.
Sewald highlighted how this inequality impedes small business ownership and homeownership for Black Americans, citing statistics that illustrate the gap in home loans and small business financing. Evans reiterated that getting capital is prohibitive for Black business ownership.
These inequalities and economic development are “deeply and fundamentally tied,” Peterson said. “Equitable access to job creation is a foundation of freedom.”
The Urban Chamber always says, “Build business to build community.” Building businesses can do three things: 1) employ people, 2) put resources from the company into the community, and 3) engage in political advocacy. This is why it is critical to have successful African-American businesses in the community, Evans pointed out.
“Racial inequality impacts all of us,” Peterson said. “We should all care.” The economic basis for this is that racial equality creates a stronger middle class. It drives a consumption-based economy that is important to everyone. “We need economic potential on the table,” he said, explaining that economic development and policy can lift up Black communities and disadvantaged groups that can positively impact the entire community.
Sewald emphasized that equality empowers communities. “Economic opportunity allows people to rise up and not only provide for themselves and their families, but pursue their dreams,” she said.
“As we move forward and have the difficult, uncomfortable conversations that are required, I would hope we keep in mind it is possible to have a conversation about race that tries to figure out some win-win solutions,” Evans concluded. He encouraged viewers to seek out perspectives in the community and embrace these conversations.