The study reveals that, without minority inclusion, Ohio’s work to position itself as a high-tech economy will be hampered and inequality will get worse (photo of Johnathan M. Holifield III courtesy of NorTech).
By RICH WEISS
Johnathan Holifield may no longer be taking hand-offs for the Cincinnati Bengals but this retired NFL running back brings that same focus and passion to a different goal line: the inclusion of Blacks and Hispanics in Northeast Ohio’s new economy.
NorTech, Northeast Ohio’s tech-based economic development organization, appointed Holifield as the first-ever vice president of ‘Inclusive Competitiveness’ in the country. Those who know Holifield for his accomplishments on the football field might be surprised to learn he has spent over 20 years cultivating collaborations between universities, nonprofits, governments, civic organizations and businesses to gain broad-based support and investment for cutting-edge economic development policy and community initiatives.
Holifield most recently co-founded The America21 Project to connect both African and Latino Americans to emerging regional innovation clusters and ecosystems. This veteran of the Cleveland Urban League, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, and founding director of CincyTech has been concerned about Ohio’s pipeline of Black and Latino workers for what seems a tidal wave of knowledge-based economy jobs coming to Ohio.
And his concerns have been justified by a new study, “The Fusion of Inclusion,” released by PolicyBridge almost simultaneously with Holifield’s promotion. The study by PolicyBridge, a regional think tank focusing on minority public policy, goes beyond noting how few Ohio Blacks and Latinos are connected to today’s innovation economy. The study reveals that, without minority inclusion, Ohio’s work to position itself as a high-tech economy will be hampered and inequality will get worse.
In an exclusive interview, Holifield turned his attention to the media, saying, “We have discovered that the minority press, particularly the Black press has not taken up this exploration and can not describe the kinds of innovation and transformation that is taking place here.” He went on to say, “We need journalists that can help our readers connect to these opportunities — it is imperative.”
“Journalists can help diagnose the problems facing our communities in the next economy,” Holifield continued. “For example, the Call & Post Student Journalist Program can be a wonderful tool for building the 21st century competitiveness narrative among our student population,” said Holifield, referring to the 21st Century Workforce page and Student Journalist Program debuted by the Call & Post in 2011. According to Holifield, “These student journalists can help identify and explain the most important tools of the new economy.” “These are messages we want to reach Call & Post audiences,” added Kelly South, senior director of Communications for NorTech.
Check upcoming issues of the Call & Post for more in-depth reporting on the local entrepreneurs, investors, and educators pushing not only for global competitiveness for our state but inclusive competitiveness.