Push aims at business opportunity for minority members, women

Shaun H. Ruff

Business and community leaders are forming a public-private initiative with the City of Little Rock to bolster internal diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the city.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced the program Wednesday and called on leadership across the community to dedicate more effort to create opportunities for minorities.

The program, called OpportUNITY, intends to expand access to business opportunities and increase competitiveness in Little Rock by supporting minority and women-owned businesses. Executives from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock joined the mayor in the announcement.

The unity initiative also was crafted to help bolster recruitment networks and enhance retention and development of a diverse workforce.

Dionne Jackson was appointed Little Rock’s chief equity officer six months ago and is spearheading the city’s effort.

“I cannot emphasize enough the significance of our businesses leading the way by participating in this movement. 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,” Jackson said in last week’s announcement. “Yet as the city asks business to join OpportUNITY Little Rock as a movement, we recognize our own responsibility for modeling effective practices in diversity, equity and inclusion, too.”

Four support initiatives also were announced last week, including a drive to counsel and register new city vendors, adding drop-in office hours to assist targeted businesses gain certification to contract with the city, a multi-agency seminar on doing business with government entities and a multi-week course for business leaders.

Together, the supporting programs aim to build a foundation to create an equitable business environment for all companies and employees.

That course at UALR starts Tuesday and will focus on training business leaders on strengthening diversity in their organizations. UALR’s leadership and chamber executives will conduct the training.

The course will be held every Tuesday and include five, two-hour sessions. Participants will learn core strategies and tactics and where to find resources that enhance efforts to coordinate change and build diversity in a business.

Businesses that join OpportUNITY Little Rock will receive regular updates on best practices for diversity and inclusion initiatives in addition to resources and support programs to assist them in creating a more diverse workforce.

For more information, visit www.littlerock.gov/opportunity.


Another effort to boost government contracting opportunities, this time with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Though most know FEMA for coordinating and responding to natural disasters and statewide emergencies such as tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires, the agency also leads and supports combating economic disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic.

In all that work, FEMA hires private contractors to provide services and products before and after a disaster. Contracts are both short term and long term, with some lasting years.

Agency officials will lead a virtual-training workshop that highlights FEMA’s contract opportunities and provides information about free assistance to help businesses.

Leaders with the Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration also will participate in the session.


The Small Business Administration also is holding virtual sessions Thursday morning to honor the contributions of Hispanic businesses and encourage their expansion.

The event, scheduled for 10-11:30 a.m., celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and the event features a fireside chat with the agency’s top official, Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman and SBA associate administrators Bibi Hidalgo and Mark Madrid.

The virtual event also includes a panel discussion about how Hispanic business owners have successfully battled the pandemic and adapted to a rapidly shifting environment. They will discuss their efforts to overcome challenges and offer tips for how to face adversity.


Leading change in an organization is difficult and most often it comes down to the few trying to persuade the many.

Statistics show that, in the average organization, 20% of employees design and drive change; another 30% actively resist change; and 50% aren’t sure whether they’re for or against it.

The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas is holding a daylong session Wednesday to train leaders to encourage change in their companies.

Participants will be taken through a situational assessment, learn to build a vision for change, create planning techniques and craft communications and change implementation initiatives.

Wednesday’s session is scheduled from 9 a.m-4 p.m. At the school’s offices in Bentonville at 702 SE Fifth St. Adam Stoverink, director of the college’s MBA programs and an associate professor of management, will lead the course.

More information is available at walton.uark.edu.

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at [email protected] or at 501-378-3567.

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