Fort Wayne City Council voted 7-2 to sign a non-binding resolution called the Fort Wayne Commitment and Inclusivity Pledge, presented by Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.
“We believe diversity of thought, background, experience and people drive innovation. We promote an environment that is welcoming and conducive to the success of all,” the pledge states. “It is through our inclusive culture that we can attract the best employees, empower our customers and help our communities achieve great things.”
The goal of the pledge is to develop a more diverse and inclusive workforce. YLNI member Tim Spradling says the message is critical to attracting young talent.
“It makes a bold statement to a future of leaders living all over the United States that 50 of our largest employers have stepped forward and signed this pledge,” said Spradling.
“They said, ‘This is how we do business here. We want you here.’”
At-large councilman John Crawford sponsored the resolution. In recent years Indiana has drawn national attention and criticism for controversial policies, and Crawford says the pledge could help repair the perception young people may have of the the state.
“I think it’ll be instrumental to help us attract more young people, more young professionals, make Fort Wayne’s average wage grow and population grow. It’s the right thing to do, both in a humanitarian way and economically, even more important,” said Crawford.
Not all councilmen felt similarly, however. First district councilman Paul Ensley says he feels council is overstepping boundaries by advising the business community.
“This feels like a little bit of a dog whistle to the progressives,” said Ensley. “I don’t necessarily think it’s the business of this council’s to make a statement of what appears to be best practices for the business community.”
Sixth district councilman Glynn Hines took exception to the idea that the pledge was connected to partisan politics, something at-large councilman Michael Barranda agreed with.
“I guess I’m guilty if you want to say this is a progressive way of saying we include others,” said Hines. “Thank you Dr. Crawford -- far from a progressive liberal -- for taking leadership on this.”
“When Glynn and I agree, it has to be good,” Crawford joked back.
YLNI and Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. will be publishing the pledge on their respective websites, and make note of council’s support.