Power of Presence: Grand Rapids Urban League forges closer ties to business community | Business
Joe Boombaard | MiBiz
GRAND RAPIDS — Joe Jones wants to change how the Grand Rapids Urban League works with businesses in West Michigan.
That’s important because, on the whole, West Michigan continually struggles to retain a diverse talent pool and workforce, and businesses in the region often scratch their heads at how to break into the growing markets in the urban communities.
The Urban League’s reinvention positions the organization to offer new programs aimed at the recruitment and retention of a diversity of professionals and at helping businesses access communities of color.
Jones’ own entry into the Urban League as its interim president and CEO — “We’re going through the process right now to make that permanent,” he said — is a case of being in the right place and being the right match for the organization. He brings to the position more than a decade of experience as an entrepreneur and small business owner in public relations and marketing consulting at E.E. Milestone + Associates Inc., his current company, and previously at Jones & Gavan LLC.
The Urban League charged Jones with developing and implementing a strategic plan aimed at improving the quality of life for the underserved urban communities in Grand Rapids and the broader West Michigan community. Traditionally, the organization worked to empower African-Americans and other minority groups in the urban community to achieve economic self-reliance. While Jones said the organization has done a good job at serving as a pipeline for employers, his goal is to “put our employment program on steroids” and work closely with companies as they look to hire from and do business with the communities of color.