Greater Gainesville unveils development initiative

Gainesville, Florida, downtown skyline
Gainesville, Florida, downtown skyline

The Greater Gainesville Chamber this week launched Inclusive Gainesville, a new initiative aimed at equitable economic development and inclusion.

“As board chair for the Greater Gainesville Chamber, I am excited to work together to raise up opportunity for everyone in our community,” said Gil Levy, senior vice president for VyStar Credit Union.

Stakeholders unveiled the plan Thursday during an event at the Cade Museum. According to a Greater Gainesville press release, it includes three primary elements:

  • Support for stakeholder businesses looking for guidance, focusing on following diversity best practices, adopting equitable practices and processes, and building a more equitable workforce
  • A signature initiative called the Inclusive Gainesville Minority Business Accelerator (IGMBA), a comprehensive program designed to help minority businesses gain more traction doing business with other Gainesville businesses and stakeholders
  • Matchmaking activities that connect graduates of the IGMBA program with stakeholder companies

Entrepreneur Markesia Akinbami, CEO of Ducere Construction Services, said building and sustaining a successful business is about leveraging one opportunity into another, something the initiative will help business owners do.

“The biggest success will not be from any particular project, but from the relationships that are created,” Akinbami said.

Levy said the effort is built on research showing the critical need for jobs and education.

“With Inclusive Gainesville, we are focusing on both,” Levy said. “Advocacy initiatives will help increase employability skills, networking opportunities will build the available workforce and the accelerator will create a foundation to build new and diverse businesses.”

Kathey Porter, founder of Porter Brown Associates and Inclusive Gainesville adviser, said the plan met with enthusiastic support.

“It is rare that your ideas are met with an immediate and enthusiastic ‘yes,’” she said. “For Inclusive Gainesville, it was an immediate and enthusiastic ‘count us in,’ which is a testament to our community’s desire and vested interest in creating equitable solutions and improving the quality of life for historically marginalized residents.”

Eric Godet, president and CEO of the Greater Gainesville Chamber, said the launch of Inclusive is only the beginning.

“Today represents the commitment and excitement our business community has to help everyone be part of the abundant opportunities we have here,” he said. “We look forward to more partners joining in.”

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