The Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation put a special focus on diversity and inclusion at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, October 12.
It was also the final meeting for vice chairman Christopher Simmler.
“I have been proud to be part of the EDIC and the work we have accomplished,” Mr. Simmler said in an email to the Enterprise. “I think the EDIC is in a very favorable position with the town and I hope that partnership continues as there are many more opportunities the EDIC can take on in support of Falmouth’s growth.”
With the departure of Mr. Simmler, the EDIC now has two vacancies on its board. The composition of the board of directors must meet certain criteria, with at least one member having experience in each of the following areas: industrial development, finance, real estate, municipal government, and a representative of low-income people. The other two spots can be anyone with either a combination of those skills or a new skill set entirely.
Board member Michael Galasso asked if the board is looking for someone with affordable housing experience, but executive director Wayne Lingafelter said the EDIC could benefit from moving in a different direction.
“We do have a slot designated to affordable housing but from my perspective, at least as I look at the board, we’re heavy on the real estate side when you look at people’s backgrounds,” Mr. Lingafelter said. “I’d like to think that for the board, diversity has to be at the top of the list as we think about our recruitment. I would suggest that in terms of looking at what we might add to the board, we consider the expansion of the skill set as well.”
Diversity in skill set is something that Lynne Broderick, EDIC administrator, agreed would be worthwhile for the board to pursue.
In a phone call with the Enterprise after the meeting, Mr. Lingafelter said the EDIC is looking for more representation in information technologies, healthcare, the blue economy and hospitality, noting that ideally, that representation would align with and represent the variety of business interests of Falmouth.
“We’re looking to diversify the board and expand its business background,” he said.
The conversation on the diversification of skill set and background came on the heels of a conversation about diversity that opened up the morning’s meeting. Olivia Masih White of No Place For Hate Falmouth spoke to the board about the importance of inclusivity and diversity. Dr. White, a native of India, has five degrees, including a master’s in religious education and a PhD in human genetics.
Dr. White told the board members about the history of No Place For Hate Falmouth, which was originally called the Racial Equality Committee. It was robust under the leadership of George Spivey but was floundering around the time that Dr. White arrived in Falmouth in 2011, she said.
Now, the steering committee has five members and is working to fulfill its mission of “building bridges, combatting bias based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, or religion and to promote respect for all people through advocacy and education.”
Dr. White explained that No Place For Hate is not a membership organization, but rather a community where everyone can participate simply by following its mission of inclusivity and advocacy for others.
“All you have to do is follow the mission of the organization,” she said. “Recognize that there is racism in Falmouth and make sure that you and your organization personally work to combat that racism. That’s all you have to do.”
Aside from Ms. Broderick, the board is composed of white men.
At the end of her talk, Dr. White challenged the EDIC to become supporters of No Place For Hate.
“The flyer that you have in front of you has 11 supporters,” she said, referring to the organization’s partnerships. “The EDIC is not one of those. So that’s a challenge for you. You might consider becoming one of our supporters and support us financially, and more than that, support us in your actions…how [can] the EDIC support Falmouth to be a more diverse community where everyone is respected? Don’t be a bystander.”
Board members acknowledged that diversifying the board is something that is at the forefront of their minds. Mr. Galasso asked Dr. White what they could do, as a board, to diversify their membership.
“You all are businesspeople, that’s the meat at the table of this town,” Dr. White said. “Make sure that there is a face that is different, that we don’t have all white males sitting there. Nothing to tear you down but I think visuals sometimes speak more than words.”
Dr. White also suggested that the EDIC explicitly offer its support to minority-owned businesses in town, at which time Mr. Galasso raised the point of small business grants that the EDIC has available for local businesses.
“We still have grants available of up to $10,000 for small businesses in Falmouth,” he said. “We have about $40,000 left and we’d love to be able to provide some funding to minority businesses, which I don’t think we’ve done.”