Funding items approved March 24 will send a total of $2.52 million to four local chambers, collectively the Diversity and Ethnic Chamber Alliance, in the coming years. Members of that alliance include the Austin LGBT Chamber, the Greater Austin Asian Chamber, the Greater Austin Black Chamber and the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
With new contracts in place, DECA organizations are now tasked with advancing Austin as a home to a diverse workforce and a destination for minority and LGBT business. The chambers will also develop a regional plan aimed at fostering economic opportunity and addressing slipping prosperity metrics among some of the city's minority populations.
"Austin, Texas, has long been one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, and over the last decade, it has been known for its strong economy and increasing diversity. What is not so well known is that Austin shows how a growing population, and economy does not equally lift up all people," DECA members said in a statement. "Austin is an example that even with growth, historically disenfranchised communities can be left further and further behind."
The funding approved this month represents the end of an extended process launched by city officials to support equity in the local economy. During a press conference with chamber representatives, Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter said the city dollars will go toward a longer-term economic development strategy that could bring "enormous benefits" to the chambers and business community around Austin.
"It’s unusual for the city to fund chambers. We have a lot of equity goals. Sometimes we do that right, and sometimes we go off the rails, frankly. And one of the things that was really important to me was for us to rethink the relationship in a way that it played to your strengths and what you do really well," Alter told chamber members. "You reduce the barriers and you support our minority-owned businesses so that that wealth creation happens. ... We should allow you to play to your comparative advantage.”
DECA members agreed late last year on a funding plan that will send a total of $461,250 to the LGBT chamber, $607,500 to the Asian chamber, $692,391 to the Black chamber and $758,646 to the Hispanic chamber over the next three years. That funding supports general economic marketing as well as the organizations' implementation of a five-year Regional Economic Equity Development plan focused on housing, workforce development, prosperity and transit.