Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc. executive vice president and chief operating officer
2017 Diversity Outlook: Tim Rosenbury
Tim Rosenbury encouraged diversity as the 2010 chairman of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. How does he rate the community now?
2017 Projection: Globalization will increase impetus for companies to embrace diversity and inclusion, but the process will take time.
SBJ: Six years after your efforts to promote diversity in business through the Springfield chamber, have you seen satisfactory change? Tim Rosenbury: Sometimes progress in this area is very difficult to measure because a lot of this is about changing attitudes or beliefs. I don’t know how you can quantify that. I can tell you a general feeling that I think people in Springfield are more comfortable discussing it and that there is more consciousness about it. Access and equity are key words that are being used in a lot of places now.
SBJ: Why should businesses care about diversity? Rosenbury: There is plenty of evidence that a community that embraces its diversity is one that is going to be economically far better served than a community that tends to turn its back on diversity. The brightest and the best will not always look like me and rarely anymore do they. I think it’s important for people in business to understand that as we do more business globally, more business over a wire and that the workforce is more diverse as our nation becomes more diverse, we need to acknowledge that and find ways to work with it as opposed to working against it.
SBJ: When you think of diversity in Springfield, what do you see? Rosenbury: It’s really about equal opportunity for all. It’s about truly understanding our own biases and trying to overcome them. The action component of diversity is inclusion. If you value diversity, then you also act in an inclusive way.
SBJ: What do boards and companies need to keep in mind? Rosenbury: I do have a sense that our community institutions are working toward becoming more inclusive. But there is such a thing as institutional racism and institutional exclusion. It’s not that they set out to be exclusive, but the practices and policies of organizations can work against inclusion without the organization intentionally planning to do so. All of this takes time and it takes a long time – I’m afraid – to overcome.
SBJ: What are your thoughts on E-Verify and how it’s going to factor into workforce development, diversity and inclusion in the city? Rosenbury: Our firm practices E-Verify, in part, because we work for public agencies that require it. This is simply part of the legal environment in which we work.
I have no idea what things are going to look like with the new presidential administration and the kind of rhetoric that came out of the presidential campaign concerning immigrants – both documented and undocumented. We will wait and see how that develops.
SBJ: The 2010 Census put Springfield at 88.7 percent white. While the state has seen an overall increase in minority students, Springfield Public School’s has seen an uptick in Hispanic students, but a decline in African American students. What do these numbers mean to you? Rosenbury: I think it’s interesting that the African American population has declined slightly. But, its no surprise that the Hispanic population has increased as it has. For many years, Springfieldians thought that we were somewhat of a safe place from the rest of the world. Change, when it comes, comes much later to the Ozarks – there is some truth to that. But this does show that with demographics, we are right up there with the rest of the country.
I remember observing back in 2010, the SPS demographic was more diverse. The younger generations are getting more diverse than the older generations.
SBJ: What can companies do to view diversity through the lens of economic development? Rosenbury: Many are doing work outside of the United States so, developing some degree of awareness and competency in being able to communicate with people of dramatically different backgrounds is necessary if they are doing business around the globe. In addition, I get to speak to students at Missouri State who are getting ready to graduate from the college of business. One of the questions I ask is, “Would you be interested in living in Springfield after you graduate?” It’s a fairly small group who say yes. I follow up and ask why. They often cite that salaries are lower, that they are looking for a bigger city with broader job opportunities, major league sports teams and a more diverse population.
Workforce development and workforce availability is an issue that every metropolitan area grapples with, so for Springfield businesses to stay competitive, we have to really listen to what these students are saying.