UA Little Rock Partners with City of Little Rock on New OpportUNITY Equity Initiative
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock joined the City of Little Rock during its launch of OpportUNITY Little Rock: A Citywide Movement for Equity.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr., Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education at UA Little Rock, and John Burgess, 2021 chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber Board of Directors announced the initiative Oct. 6 at Entegrity Energy Partners, the largest energy services company in the region and a unique provider of optimized building performance.
“True diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a token or counting a number. It’s ensuring you that you’re creating true opportunity,” said Mayor Scott Jr., a UA Little Rock alumnus. “As we embark on this journey, it’s crucial to the future of our economy that businesses get involved with this movement so that we can collectively make a sizable impact on our city.”
The program is a public-private partnership that bridges access and opportunity by training business leaders to bolster their internal diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts and support minority and women business enterprises (MWBEs) to competitively engage as suppliers. It is also designed to help grow recruitment networks and enhance retention and development of a diverse workforce.
“UA Little Rock is extremely proud to be partnering on this initiative to provide training on diversity, equity, and inclusion at work to support commerce and equitable economic development in Central Arkansas,” Estes said. “This course will provide leaders with a strong foundation for DEI work, tools for ongoing efforts through a growing collaborative resources library, and ongoing support for those pursuing related goals at their own institutions.”
The program is part of a larger vision for a more equitable business environment that reflects the diversity of Little Rock’s population, growing economic development through diversity in perspective, services, outlook, and business objectives.
“I cannot emphasize enough the significance of our businesses leading the way by participating in this movement,” said Dionne Jackson, Ed.D., Little Rock’s chief equity officer. “We must realize, with the growth of our city and moving towards a global majority, we must have businesses that are better equipped to serve as a bridge to access and opportunities. Yet as the city asks businesses to join OpportUNITY Little Rock as a movement, we recognize our own responsibility for modeling effective practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion, too.”
Four supporting programs were announced today, including a supplier drive to counsel and register new City vendors, drop-in office hours to assist MWBEs in certification and navigation of the process for becoming certified, a multi-agency seminar on doing business with government entities, and a multi-week course for business leaders on strengthening diversity within their organizations led by UA Little Rock Extended Education and the Chamber.
“The Little Rock Regional Chamber is thrilled to partner with UA Little Rock on this targeted diversity, equity, and inclusion training for business leaders,” said Burgess, of the Little Rock Regional Chamber, of the seminar. “We also look forward to working closely with Mayor Scott and the OpportUNITY Little Rock team as we all work to build stronger and more meaningful opportunities for minority-owned businesses to thrive within Little Rock’s growing economy.”
By joining OpportUNITY Little Rock, businesses will receive regular updates on DEI best practices, as well as information on resources and support programs to assist them in becoming competitive suppliers for public sector purchasing contracts.
For more information, visit the OpportUNITY Little Rock website.