Now is the time for diversity
The beginning of the year is always the best time to reflect on the past; celebrate your accomplishments; and set goals in the areas that you would like to improve.
As the new president of Westside Economic Alliance, I take special interest in the process of reflection and direction setting for our organization.
Last month, Westside Economic Alliance (WEA) Board of Directors engaged in a session led by two outstanding facilitators: Sue Hildick, former executive director of The Chalkboard Project, and Erin Prince, former school superintendent of the Corvallis School District. Both guided us through the process of recognizing our strengths and determining the areas that we need to focus on as we move the organization forward.
WEA continues to be the preeminent business alliance, serving the Westside of the Portland Metropolitan region. Our strengths include serving as a convener on topics that directly influence the economic vitality of our region; acting as an advocate on issues of concern for our membership; and providing timely information on relevant topics to our community.
In 2018, the attendance at WEA committee meetings and events was high. Our forums featured U.S. Senator Ron Wyden; congressional representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader; Portland State University President Rahmat Shoureshi; former Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck; the candidates for Washington County Chair, including former Commissioner Bob Terry and current Chair Kathryn Harrington; school superintendents Don Grotting and Mike Scott; Andersen Construction President Joel Andersen (not once, but twice Joel was on stage with us); Day CPM Services' Mike Day; IBEW 48's Jon Jensen; WHPacific's Tom Jones; Portland Community College's Sylvia Kelley; Economist Josh Lehner; WorkSystems, Inc.'s Andrew McGough; the Beaverton School District's Janine Weir; and Touchmark's Rick Wessell. These panelists shared their insights on construction, education, legislation, the political climate, and workforce development. We had a special conference that looked specifically at the intersection of housing and transportation, which featured national and local panelists. After these events, we asked for feedback from our members and guests, and the surveys consistently received excellent reviews on the programs and services the organization provided in 2018.
Economic development issues such as transportation, land use, and housing are often the focus at WEA, but during the facilitated discussion with the WEA Board of Directors last month, it was determined that an area of focus for our organization needs to be diversity, equity, and inclusion. As we approach issues that face our region, we need more diverse voices in the room. We recognize that many of the WEA members, from both the private and the public sectors, have outstanding programs in place, and we intend to learn from their successful implementation of strategies that encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion.
My employer, Kaiser Permanente, has been recognized as a top employer for diversity, ranking in the top five on DiversityInc's Top Companies for Diversity every year since 2010. We celebrate and value a diverse workforce. Other WEA members recognized by DiversityInc include: AT&T, Comcast, Genentech, Intel, Key Bank, and Walmart. PGE has also played a leadership role in sponsoring community diversity summits. I, along with other board members, will be bringing the leaders of the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to the WEA Board to provide insight and advice on how to achieve our goals on this issue.
We also intend to work with our public partners, community partners, and WEA members to bring additional voices to the table. On our Board of Directors, we have six directors representing the public sector — the Chair of Washington County, the mayors of the four largest cities in Washington County, and a representative from the Metro Council. All have offered to help us move forward on this very important issue.
Here at WEA, we are doing many things well. One of the historic strengths of the organization is to recognize where we need to improve and to direct our efforts to that improvement. I am looking forward to working with our board, our staff, and our membership in looking for strategies to help our organization be a true reflection of our community.
Brantley Dettmer is the Chief Operating Officer of Kaiser Permanente's Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, and board president of the WEA. Learn more about the WEA at: westsidealliance.org