The Brainerd Welcoming Communities Advocacy Group would like to express our concern over the local backlash against diversity, equity and inclusion training in area schools. We believe it’s critically important to understand the ways in which some have been historically excluded and marginalized, and the disparities that still exist today as a result. In addition, training such as this prepares teachers to better understand all the stakeholders in their community and equip all students with an equity framework that will help them succeed here and elsewhere. This isn’t always easy work, but it is necessary work.

Why is diversity, equity and inclusion important in our community? It’s simple — humanity and math. It’s the right thing to do as human beings, and the demographics tell us we don’t and won’t have enough workers to fill available jobs, especially if we want our economy to grow. Just this week, we learned a local health care provider is operating a facility at about 65% capacity, not because they can’t fill the rooms but because they cannot find the staff to serve more than that. In almost every business you walk into, there are “help wanted” signs on the door or on signage. And it’s not ending anytime soon. The Minnesota State Demographic Center projects that labor-force growth to be low, around 0.5% annually, from now through about 2045.

Business leaders across the state have said that those communities who figure out how to attract, welcome, and retain new workers and entrepreneurs will be those that thrive. Charlie Weaver of the MN Business Partnership was quoted in MinnPost addressing this exact issue. He stated, “The one thing that keeps (employers) up at night is, will the talent be available in Minnesota to grow and expand those companies here? It’s a significant challenge. A lot of our workforce is retiring and the pool of workers is shallower. And that really gets to the challenge of the achievement/opportunity gap and the additional problems posed by it. We also need new immigrants in this state to successfully compete and provide talent for our companies to continue to prosper here.”

Similarly, Bill Blazar, retired senior vice president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, has talked extensively about the economic facets of immigration. He correctly points out that those who immigrate to the U.S. and Minnesota are important for the state’s economy as workers, entrepreneurs and consumers. Blazar goes on to note that productive immigrant communities help connect Minnesota to the world economy and encourage more foreign investment in local enterprises.

By knowing more about one another, building relationships and building community, we become stronger together. The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do right.” He didn’t say, only when it is easy.

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The Brainerd Welcoming Communities Advocacy Group is a group of local residents and organizations committed to creating a welcoming community for all. We work alongside and support community organizations, employers and others who are intentional about developing an inclusive local culture in the Brainerd lakes area.

Brainerd Welcoming Communities Advocacy Group: Chet Bodin, Karen M. Johnson, Laura Marsolek, Mary Sam and Karl Samp