The State's Economic Development Department announced a new position that focuses on connecting underserved communities and their business leaders to resources. Reporter Taylor Velazquez spoke with Shani Harvie about her new role as the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator and how she hopes to grow New Mexico's local businesses.
SHANI HARVIE: So, my goals with the JEDI coordinator are really to bring program visibility and kind of ease of access to a lot of our existing economic development programs. And kind of like creating a pathway for minority owned businesses and community oriented organizations to really have like a direct line into what's going on in state economic development.
KUNM: And why do you think this position is important now? And how will it impact New Mexicans?
HARVIE: I think that position is really important at this time, because in making sure that we have positions and people who are dedicated to making sure that everyone has access to these programs, regardless of the communities that they come from.
You just brought up business owners and I read that this position will target New Mexican businesses and address the systemic inequalities that these business people face. And this past year, as we all know, has been filled with uncertainties and just hardships. So how has COVID-19 impacted these systemic inequalities?
HARVIE: It's really opened a space for us to see those systemic inequalities and almost see them in action. Because sure we talk about people don't get the same access to financing, people don't get the same access to capital, but we've really seen that almost amplified by COVID. And like they say that there's, you know, millions of dollars in this loan, and that loan and any business owner can qualify. And lo and behold, those same underserved and underrepresented communities continue to fall through the cracks, they don't get the same access to that capital.
You have said that our state can be a leader in many areas. Can you explain what you mean by this, and how your position will push these efforts forward?
HARVIE: Yeah, so New Mexico has the potential to be a leader in so many areas. And really, when we're looking at the makeup of the entire country, we are a diverse country. And New Mexico is a really great representation of that diversity. So, when we're talking about making inclusive environments, and making sure that all people have the access to the same resources, we can really lead in those areas, because we already reflect kind of what's going on nationwide. We're growing in the film industry, we're growing in outdoor rec and those are also places where diversity and inclusion needs more of a spotlight.
Throughout this position, how many folks do you plan to serve and who should reach out for help and support?
HARVIE: So really, right now I am focused on businesses that fall within like film, outdoor rec, and science and technology. So, we have a ton of different programs just in those three offices. I'm really looking for businesses that are in a position that they're ready to grow and take that next step.
Right. And it seems like a lot of this position is about connecting to what New Mexico already has and connecting to that unique landscape. So, how would focuses on multicultural success impact in New Mexico economy in general?
HARVIE: So, when we give everyone an equal chance and an equitable opportunity to start a business to expand their business, we're invigorating the economy, but we're invigorating those communities as well.
And what are you most looking forward to in this position?
HARVIE: I think what I'm most looking forward to in this position is really having the chance to create kind of a collaborative pathway where we have everyone kind of coming in to join the conversation and really creating a space where business owners and community members and community organizations feel empowered to participate in these economic development programs. And sowing seeds for one business to help that business grow and watch that give way to other businesses and community organizations and showing our local businesses that they have the potential to grow and that they don't have to do it alone.