New Greater Rockford Chamber board lacks diversity, residents say

The new Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce board prompts some community members to call for more diversity.
Published: Oct. 4, 2023 at 10:14 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The new Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce board prompts some community members to call for more diversity.

Out of 15 newly nominated board members, not one is a person of color.

To form the new Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce, the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC), the Greater Rockford Growth Partnership and the Rockford Chamber combined to create a 15-member board of directors.

All 15 members nominated to the board are white and only four are women. Denezz Cochran, Owner of RootzBranches, says this needs to change.

“We are 21.7% of the population here in Rockford, so we need to be paid attention to a little bit more,” said Cochran. “Those numbers are not a representation of what’s really happening here in Rockford, Illinois. Minority-owned businesses both gender and also race are on the upswing.”

A sentiment shared by more than one African-American business owner.

“I don’t think that a lot of black-owned businesses get the opportunity to be in the spotlight if you will,” said Keishonda Williamson, executive director at Kikifer’s Entrepreneurial Academy.

Terry Voskuil is the former vice chair for the Greater Rockford Growth Partnership board of directors. He says things got tricky with the chamber merger.

“Because it’s a merger, we had to take people from the boards. We took 5 people from each of the committees,” Voskuil said.

He says no people of color from any of the three boards signed up to serve on the new board.

“In the end, for whatever personal reasons, the people that were diverse in those committees had elected out of the board,” he said.

The first board of directors meeting is Thursday, Oct. 5. Voskuil says that five new board positions will eventually open up, but they won’t be filled all at once.