KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Following Monday night's Kalamazoo City Commission meeting, the Southwest Michigan First economic development organization released a statement.
Southwest Michigan First lost financial support from the city after hiring Lee Chatfield, former Michigan Speaker of the House, as CEO.
On Tuesday, the organization says it is updating the official handbook to clearly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in the hiring process. Southwest Michigan First says that has always been its practice, but felt the official change was needed after Monday's commission meeting.
Southwest Michigan First cited comments made by several commissioners as a factor in the decision.
Chatfield shared the statement on social media, saying he is behind the action.
Please see below our Statement of Values at SWMF and response to the decisions made yesterday by the Kalamazoo City Commission, as well as action that I took today as CEO. pic.twitter.com/iyTKdviZMh— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) February 16, 2021
Read the full statement below:
Here at Southwest Michigan First, we believe in partnering with our local communities and supporting all businesses to ensure we have a vibrant economy. We strive to ensure that good paying jobs are available to everybody—free of employment discrimination. We uphold the values of diversity, inclusion and equality and aim to live up to them each and every day. Each person in our communities deserves equal treatment and protection under the law.
Last evening, we heard the remarks made by several of the commissioners of the City of Kalamazoo. We wish to continue our partnership with them in the future, just as we have partnered with them in the past. But we understand that more work needs to be done to make that happen, and we are committed to doing so. Our team is devoted to listening, learning and working alongside partners as we seek to better our community and region. In order to have positive economic change in our region, we seek to have all voices and opinions be heard and provide everybody a seat at the table. Though saddened by some of the sentiment shared last evening, we will learn from it.
Starting today, we have updated our official handbook at Southwest Michigan First to more clearly articulate that we prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in our hiring process. Though it has always been a practice to treat one another with an equal amount of dignity and respect free of discrimination throughout our company’s existence, we are taking this important step today to make sure it is official. We have listened. We have heard. And now we are taking action.
As this company continues to grow to help this region, we also hope to grow in our awareness of discrimination and do all we can to continue listening to people and our community leaders so that we may all contribute to a healthy and caring community. Discrimination will not be tolerated here at Southwest Michigan First. Growing our economy is a non-partisan issue that requires all of us to pull together with a unifying effort. And today, Southwest Michigan First is helping this cause by taking this important step.