Putting Words into Action: MEDC’s Steadfast Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity

Aileen Bovan

Thursday, February 9, 2023

This Black History Month, we at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation are reflecting on our efforts to ensure we continue to create a more equitable and resilient economy for all Michiganders across the state, while demonstrating our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusivity in all that we do.


Whether it’s within an organization, a community or across our culture, we know that effective and long-lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. When I was appointed Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Officer with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in 2020, the first step was to listen. Where did we need to go as an organization? And how could we better serve the diverse array of communities across our state?

Around the time I began serving as DEI Officer, the world was coping with the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our communities were tested in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and the world as we knew it was almost entirely different. As we’ve adjusted to our new normal and worked to rebuild what was derailed by the pandemic, our foundation remains the same: aiming to create a more equitable economy for all Michiganders who call our state home. And now more than ever, we are putting those words into action.

Within the MEDC, our DEI team is growing, including a DEI Liaison position created as a direct result of feedback from stakeholders. We also have an RFP posted for a consultant to review the programming across our organization. By building out our DEI team and its capacity, we will be able to identify where barriers may exist, compare our practices to other regions across the country and find out how we can implement change intentionally and impactfully. And thanks to programming such as our MEDC DEI Speaker Series, MEDC staff have the opportunity to meet and learn from key members of the community, from Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce Founder Kevin Heard to Dimitrius Hutcherson, MSF Board member and EVP, Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Technology Officer for First Independence Bank, and many others.

While change is not happening at the speed of light, incremental change is happening – we are listening and putting action behind it.

MEDC remains committed to ensuring that all our programs and services are delivered equitably to the residents and businesses of our state. We realize that no company, including MEDC, is ever perfect, but that is never an excuse for inaction; rather, it’s a reminder that it’s on all of us to strive toward becoming more perfect across all our programs, policies and hiring practices.

This year, I will also be leading an effort to leverage incentive dollars to bring businesses and communities on the DEI journey with us.

As we look to Black History Month, we know it is critical to take this time to commemorate the contributions and achievements made by Black people, while recognizing their role in our history. Today, we are still dealing with many of the same, deep-rooted challenges facing our society that were present when I began my role as MEDC’s DEI officer. As a black woman serving in a leadership role, I look to the strong black leaders who came before me for inspiration and purpose and aspire to make an impact to create a better landscape for those coming behind me.

It is our role as economic developers to have these hard conversations within the communities that we're serving, to determine individual needs within a business or community and see how we can help. DEI work requires relationship building to establish trust with those we haven’t served to the extent that we should have; it’s not an overnight fix by any stretch, but as an organization, the MEDC is putting funding and resources behind our DEI efforts to help move the needle forward.

Michigan is an incredibly diverse state; from our rich tribal communities to our growing immigrant population, we share a sense of pride in being a place where people of all walks of life can build a successful life. We must continue holding ourselves accountable for these efforts by setting hard targets in a way that is transparent to both our staff and stakeholders.

And with a growing DEI team and our CEO, Quentin L. Messer, Jr., at the helm, the MEDC will continue to listen, learn and ensure diversity, equity and inclusivity are key in everything we do.

To learn more about the MEDC’s commitment to DEI efforts, click here.

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