As we search for the light signaling the end of this economic recession, wise states, counties and cities are positioning their residents for the better days to come.
That means focusing government efforts on economic development, a broad, fuzzy concept whose meaning and benefits don't always filter down to the lives of ordinary folk.
In Kentucky, however, the Governor's Office of Minority Empowerment, the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet and the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center want that future to include everyone, not just business people.
Delquan Dorsey, executive director of the minority empowerment office, said improving the economy of a state or region should mean improving the income potential for everyone.
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That would mean more money for schools, better education for students, improved housing and health care and possibly a more equal justice system. Everything improves if we have more money at our disposal.
"That is what this is all about," Dorsey said of Gov. Steve Beshear's Economic Success through Minority Empowerment Summit, which is scheduled for Thursday at the Lexington Convention Center. "Whether you are a minority or not, if you want to see Kentucky better off, you need to come."
The summit will feature three workshops — economic development, leadership and education — each emphasizing advancement through inclusion.
Young people have embraced the concept of inclusion, as evidenced in their overwhelming support of President Barack Obama's candidacy. Companies are embracing diversity, because they know we baby boomers are nearing retirement age and replacements need to be found. If those replacements value diversity, then the company trying to attract them must reflect that. And if a state wants to attract those companies, that state must join the trend.
Economic development now "speaks more to the awareness of grass-roots issues and getting individuals involved from the boardroom to the corner," Dorsey said. "And it is about getting those who already hold government, education and political positions more aware of the issues.
"Kentucky hasn't fully maximized inclusion and diversity in the state and developed that brand," he said.
The summit starts at 8:30 a.m., with representatives from the three sponsors and the presentation Minorities in Kentucky: An Education, Economic and Leadership Snapshot.
After the three workshops, which begin at 10 a.m., Beshear will speak at the luncheon, as will keynote speaker Kevin Powell, a writer, entrepreneur and former congressional candidate in Brooklyn, N.Y.
At 2 p.m., Renee Shaw, host of KET's Connections with Renee Shaw, will moderate a panel discussing how Kentucky prospers when opportunity extends to all of its citizens.
Those attending the summit will be asked not only to give feedback on what they have heard, but to suggest other ways this state can position itself for prosperity.
"We will ask them for challenges we have not addressed," Dorsey said.
Folks are constantly saying that Kentucky is years behind other states. I've said it, too.
Now is the time to correct that.
Now also is the time for minorities, for the poor and for those marginalized by region to play a role in changing that perception.
The summit costs $50, and $10 for students, including lunch. There is a discount for groups. Scholarships are available, Dorsey said, so don't let a lack of money stop you. You need to register online at http://ome.ky.gov, or call 502-564-2611 or 866-230-1587.
All of us in Kentucky need to get prepared.