Reality check: Why it’s important for most diverse state in country to create ‘Diverse Business Month’

Thanks to effort by Sens. Poe, Johnson, New Jersey now will recognize its large share of diverse business owners each July

Here’s the complicated aspect of making July into “Diverse Business Month” — an initiative that became a reality earlier this week, thanks to the efforts of state Sens. Nellie Pou and Gordon Johnson.

This isn’t a rant against diversity, equity & inclusion. No, far from it. It’s an acknowledgement of reality.

New Jersey prides itself on being the most diverse state in the country — a diversity that is shown in the business community, where nearly 40% of all business are owned by women, 21% are owned by people of color, 4% are owned by veterans and a soon-to-be-calculated amount are owned by members of the LGBTQ+ community.

So, why is this monthly designation needed?

The answer: Reality (or, at least, the recently released disparity study) shows minority business are not getting anywhere close to their piece of the economic pie.

That’s how Pou (D-Paterson) and Johnson (D-Englewood) spelled it out in their resolution.

“Despite their large economic impact, diverse-owned businesses in the state continue to face certain challenges to growth, which include limited access to capital,” they wrote. “Additionally, a statewide study examining the availability and utilization of state contracting opportunities for diverse-owned businesses found significant disparities for diverse-owned businesses in formal prime contracts for construction, professional services and general goods and services.

“It is thus in the public interest of this state to raise awareness of the positive economic impact of businesses owned by persons of color, women, veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community and to focus on ways to support diverse-owned businesses.”

The leaders of diversity chambers certainly agreed.

“The recent diversity study has sparked a powerful movement, leading to the formation of the New Jersey Diverse Business Advisory Council,” Carlos Medina, CEO of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said. “This coalition comprises dozens of statewide organizations, united in their commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion in the business community.”

Gus Penaranda, executive director of the New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce, said such a designation is as important as ever.

“As DEI is being erased across the country, New Jersey is moving forward in protecting one of the key elements that makes this part of the country the focal point for business innovation,” he said. “It’s our diversity that makes us better.

“New Jersey has known that long before we started saying, ‘DEI.’”

John Harmon, the head of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said he appreciates the connection to the month of July.

“The Fourth of July represents what this country is comprised of — a melting pot of people looking for a better life, many of which came through Ellis Island,” he said. “If you take that and match it to the diversity of our demographics, every day should be diversity day in New Jersey.

“New Jersey should own its diversity.”

Poe and Johnson certainly agree.

“The observance of a ‘Diverse Business Month’ each year will provide an opportunity for government officials, community leaders and business leaders to focus on ways to support diverse business owners and to help them succeed,” they wrote.