#12 Business Equity Initiative

Objective: Create a collaborative initiative to champion equity and inclusion in the Wichita Falls business community and enhance opportunities for diverse talent and companies to thrive.

High-performing businesses increasingly recognize the importance of equity and inclusion to their bottom line and ability to attract and retain top workers. Similarly, talented individuals and companies value communities that are open and inclusive. Stakeholder engagement revealed, however, that Wichita Falls is struggling with these issues. Survey respondents were asked the extent to which they agreed with the statement, “Wichita Falls seeks to include its diverse residents in civic, social, political, and business networks.” Just 12.5 percent of Black or African American respondents and 28.6 percent of Hispanic or Latino respondents agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.

There are many societal and cultural dimensions to issues of equity and inclusion, many of which cannot be adequately addressed at the community level. That said, issues such as inclusive hiring practices and support for minority- and women-owned businesses navigating contract and procurement processes can play a critical role in advancing equity and have a close fit with a holistic economic development strategy.

Stakeholders said that many businesses in Wichita Falls would like to engage in inclusive hiring practices and utilize diverse suppliers and vendors but need assistance in doing so. This proposed Key Initiative focuses on creating a multi-faceted “business equity” initiative to address this need. The first step in the Initiative will entail bringing together a diverse group to lead on issues of equity and inclusion. Stakeholders emphasized that identifying and receiving buy-in from the right mix of individuals and organizations will be critical to the success of the initiative. Accordingly, significant time and care should be devoted to the first Recommended Action. With the right partners in place, the focus then shifts to guiding two new programs focused on inclusive hiring practices and supplier diversity and providing support for other strategic priorities such as Key Initiative #13: Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the talent initiatives in Goal I.


  • Business Equity for Indy (Indianapolis, IN)


1. Convene diverse leaders to guide the business equity initiative

  • Bring together a diverse and inclusive group of business and nonprofit executives, human resources professionals, and other public and private leaders; ensure that the group includes individuals who have built strong networks and trust in Wichita Falls’ minority communities
  • Engage the SBDC and other entrepreneurial ecosystem partners (see Key Initiative #13) to ensure that small businesses and startups are included in and served through the initiative
  • Meet on a regular schedule (monthly or quarterly) to guide the business equity initiative; share best practices and lessons learned, and identify action items for inclusive hiring and supplier diversity efforts; if desired, meetings could be themed around specific issues or topics
  • Ensure that the group is supported by professional staff

2. Developing a compelling brand identity and outreach campaign for the initiative

  • With members of the business equity initiative and other relevant stakeholders, develop a memorable brand identity for the initiative, inclusive of a name, logo or wordmark, etc.
  • Develop core messages and an inclusive outreach campaign designed to reach diverse populations in Wichita Falls; designate “brand ambassadors” to engage in word-of-mouth marketing to business executives, HR professionals, etc. to “cut through the clutter” of social media and digital advertising

3. Provide resources to assist Wichita Falls companies with inclusive hiring and promotion practices

  • Work with members of the business equity initiative to identify inclusive hiring and promotion practices that have been successful in Wichita Falls
  • Create or license a toolkit to assist Wichita Falls companies with inclusive hiring and promotion practices; topics could include methods for assessing existing capacity, guidance on the role of corporate culture and unconscious bias, best practices for recruiting, and performance metrics
  • Evaluate the desirability of developing an “inclusive hiring pledge” for Wichita Falls companies 4. Create a supplier diversity program for minority- and women-owned businesses
  • Develop a directory of minority- and women-owned businesses (including small businesses and startups) that are interested in supplying and/or contracting with area businesses and institutions
  • Conduct an outreach effort to develop the initial list and regularly seek out new participants;
  • Facilitate introductions between minority- and women-owned businesses and large regional firms and anchor institutions with available contracting opportunities
  • Develop annual or semi-annual training sessions for minority and women business owners on navigating contracting and procurement processes

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