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In an interview with SBJ Editor Eric Olson, right, Lyle Foster presents ideas to better serve Springfield’s diverse population.
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
In an interview with SBJ Editor Eric Olson, right, Lyle Foster presents ideas to better serve Springfield’s diverse population.

Big Momma’s CEO: Culture change will attract diverse workforce

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Last edited 3:15 p.m., Oct. 16, 2019

Big Momma’s Coffee and Espresso Bar LLC CEO and community activist Lyle Foster this morning discussed how Springfield can create new opportunities and learn from its past to attract and retain a diverse workforce.

Foster spoke before roughly 90 people at Hilton Garden Inn as Springfield Business Journal’s monthly 12 People You Need to Know live interview series guest.

In Springfield — where white people make up nearly 90% of the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates — Foster said business owners and community stakeholders must tap into the cultural aspects of the city that make it stand out from others to encourage people of color to live here.

“Springfield is doing a better job of recruitment and bringing talent to our city. I think our No. 1 challenge now is how do we retain individuals,” he said. “How do we instill the culture? Particularly young professionals, they really enjoy all expressions of culture. I think we can do a better job with that in terms of Springfield as an overall community.”

A “welcoming atmosphere” is key to diverse workforce recruitment, he said, as well as the addition of new cultural amenities. He noted an urban radio station is one idea.

Tapping into Springfield’s history also is an integral part of the process, he said.

Foster is part of the Springfield-Greene County African-American Heritage Trail Committee, which earlier this month installed a marker at the downtown square that tells the story of the 1906 lynchings of three black men.

“We can look at this as an opportunity for healing,” he said. “To understand our future, we have to reckon with our history.”

Foster said officials involved with the campaign have secured funding for seven additional markers — at around $3,000 apiece — and have identified 20 sites in the city for future installations. The first marker was put up late last year at Silver Springs Park.


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