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La June Montgomery Tabron talks Business Case for Racial Equity in Michigan at 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Forum

Dana Linnane

BATTLE CREEK, MICH. – La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), opened the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Forum on Friday with a keynote speech sharing key takeaways from the Business Case for Racial Equity in Michigan, focusing on the benefits for developing a well-trained, more diverse workforce in Grand Rapids and Michigan.

The report, developed by WKKF and the Altarum Institute, provides a blueprint for how pursuing and achieving racial healing and equity can lead to better outcomes for future generations and our economy.

“In the coming decades, the United States will be a majority minority nation, which means the majority of your future workers may well be African American, Latino and Asian/Pacific Islanders,” Tabron said. “As this younger, more diverse population plays an increasing role in both your workforce and customer base, there is a greater need for us to embrace racial healing and racial equity in order to strengthen Grand Rapids’ economy, create jobs and revive neighborhoods, while broadening opportunities for children and families to thrive.”

According to the U.S. Census data, more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be children of color by 2020, and, overall, people of color will surpass 50 percent of the population by 2043.

Tabron highlighted the Kellogg Foundation-supported Pathways to Success program at Grand Rapids Community College, which helps low-income workers gain new skills and education in areas such as manufacturing, health care and technology.

As part of the program, 102 residents from the neighborhoods south and west of downtown Grand Rapids were tested and nearly all were trainable for 75-90 percent of occupations in the country after participating in the Pathways course work, coaching and skill training.

“We need to connect this waiting workforce with the training and credentials they need to succeed as employees – as your employees,” Tabron said. “These changing demographics present Grand Rapids with a challenge and opportunity. This is our new reality, and I believe that companies with expertise in hiring a diverse workforce will have a competitive advantage.”

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About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to help break the cycle of poverty by removing barriers based on race or income that hold back children, so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.

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