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Workforce Development, the Local Business Economy, SmartAlex and the Diversity in Action Program

Mayor Roy believes Alexandria’s economic competitiveness and viability are ultimately dependent on the quality and diversity of our workforce. Regardless of how much we improve our infrastructure or improve public safety, if we lack a skilled and able workforce, we will never be able to effectively compete for 21st century jobs. 

First and foremost, Mayor Roy understands workforce development actually begins in the classroom. If we are committed to ensuring our young people are equipped with the skills and experience they need to earn a livelihood, then we must first insist they take responsibility for their own education. They must understand their investment in a high school diploma or a college degree may require some sacrifice, but it will continue to pay dividends throughout the rest of their lives. 

Our community and our country lean on parents, grandparents, pastors, and mentors to encourage and praise a child for showing up to class, paying attention, and earning a degree. In a related fashion, these same partners in education can help with crime reduction. The more educated and job ready, the less crime infiltrates a community; the more the stakeholders and parents collaborate, the less crime.

When Jacques Roy first campaigned for office years ago, he made workforce development one of his top priorities. He recognized we could not afford to neglect the importance of training and maintaining a skilled workforce, and he recognized the City of Alexandria had a unique opportunity to lead by example.

Shortly after taking office, Mayor Roy launched the Diversity in Action initiative, a multi-pronged program that sought to locate resources and opportunities for local, small, emerging, minority, or women-owned businesses, many of whom had struggled to find a foothold. 

Diversity in Action is not about set-asides or quotas for minorities or minority-owned businesses. Instead, it is about helping local businesses and entrepreneurs build their own capacities, providing them with a clearinghouse of resources they can utilize to increase their competitiveness in the marketplace. 

We have opened doors of opportunity for countless businesses that had traditionally been shut out, and the City of Alexandria is truly leading by example, without ever having to place quotas in place or arbitrarily giving some “extra points.”  

“People fear diversity programs.  Oftentimes, it is just a misunderstanding of language.  The people with whom I speak don’t want a hand out; they want a fair field of play and opportunity to shine.  I believe it is a matter of casting a bigger net to a broader field, and fishing in the right places.  You can’t tell me someone is unqualified when you haven’t taken the time to look.”  Jacques Roy, 2010

“Stewardship means working together to solve problems, overcome binding fear leading to hatred, racism, and suspicion; to make sure that we do not let fear translate into complacency and suspicion, paralyzing us with poisonous indecision and stalemates; and to analyze ideas for our future on the merits of those ideas, not who brings the ideas forward.

“I believe we are morally obligated to implement a model for inclusiveness in our City, and then promote this model to the region.  This Administration is committed to bring the citizenry diversity in action, a renewal of smart, community-based planning for our City (which includes consideration of the needs and ideas of all citizens, not just a few), and to show those who refuse to recognize the moral necessity of ‘a shared vision for action’ the absolute necessity for such a shared vision on the basis of economic grounds. 

“I know first hand that we can prove diversity works; inclusiveness makes money; community-based planning positively affects cities.  This Administration follows models of other successful cities in America that are engaging their diverse workforces to capitalize on what exists in their communities.  However, Cities must be honest and communicate to overcome racial, cultural, discriminatory, and other barriers to a productive workforce.”  Excerpts from the Inaugural Address and Diversity in Action Plan of Mayor Roy, 2006

Ensuring diversity in government contracting is only one component of workforce development. 

Again, workforce development begins in the classroom. Experts say Alexandria is one of the largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the entire country that does not have a proper community and technical college. 

Not only is this unacceptable; it undermines our ability to educate our emerging workforce; it threatens the competitiveness of our existing businesses; and it severely reduces the opportunities we have to attract new industries. 

Mayor Roy is committed to locating a community college campus here in Alexandria; he believes it is the most important workforce development initiative we face, not only as a community but as an entire region. The Mayor believes we must fight for the “full panoply of opportunity” almost every other part of the State has. That means a full comprehensive community college effort AND a four-year institution. 

Before Jacques Roy was elected Mayor, the City of Alexandria never had a workforce development initiative. In less than four years, he committed to a program that has demonstrated tangible and impressive success. Still, he understands we must be forward-thinking. We must strive toward making our workforce skilled, competitive, innovative, and educated. To be successful and competitive, our workforce should be empowered to become highly-educated, highly-skilled, entrepreneurial, and independent.

Some considerations and accomplishments detailing the commitment of this Administration to the goals stated by some and acted on by the Mayor. These are the written policy statements:

“Alexandria policy-makers should promote policies for Central Louisiana to move from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy; enable education providers to retrain and retain the proper tools to do so; allow the process to be driven by the participants and not government dominated—start to finish; and build awareness and organize demand for workforce basic skill development.” 

  • We know our need to establish a demand-driven delivery system with programs and providers addressing the needs of employers. We think there should probably be, in addition to a rich partnership and collaborative effort, a centralized driver to promote continuous innovation in program design and delivery. 

“We also know the City of Alexandria’s Administration finds that the diversity of a community can be its greatest resource for success.  The people, as a resource, cannot be underestimated in the success recipe of a City positioned as Alexandria.  This Administration is compelled, morally and economically, to include in its policy development community-driven agendas, formulated with the input of the academic and nonprofit sectors, which advance civic engagement of the entire community on the issues of diversity and race relations.” 

“We must create overarching diversity policy to create culturally competent organizations and partners and inculcate a global understanding of how diversity aids the city in the marketplace.

  • In Diversity in Action’s Small and Emerging Business Development Program,” we are promoting: (i) The competitive viability of small business, minority, and women business enterprise by providing contract, technical, educational, and management assistance; (ii) business ownership by small business persons, minority persons, and women; and (iii) the procurement by the City of articles, equipment, supplies, and materials from business concerns owned by small business concerns, minority persons, and women. 
  • In Diversity in Action’s Close the Gap mentoring, we are promoting entrepreneurship, coaching, institutional barriers, training and education, business assistance, start-up counseling, and incubation.

“We must develop human capital & public outreach plans (e.g., SmartAlex, A.F.E.A.T., A.F.I.I., A.B.A., and others).”

  • The Administration’s “Diversity in Action” plan is therefore composed of the “Small and Emerging Business Development Program” for the City of Alexandria and a “Close the Gap” mentoring program.  The several components include: (i) the “Alexandria Fairness, Equality, Accessibility and Teamwork” Program (“A.F.E.A.T.”); (ii) the “Alexandria Bonding Assistance” Program (“A.B.A.”); iii) the “Alexandria Financial Intermediary Initiative” Program (“A.F.I.I.”); and workforce initiatives and “Career Choice”-style programs.
  • Review the City’s Diversity in Action website created by the Mayor’s Office at diversityinaction.org.
  • The City of Alexandria, in conjunction with Diversity in Action, launched an initiative called “SmartAlex.”  SmartAlex is designed to address streamlining local government activities, increasing accountability, using best practices, making government services pay for themselves (when possible) while eliminating duplicative, wasteful programs, and promoting local patronage and use of services, products, and community resources.