Two headlines in our newspaper this week were welcome reminders that Frederick County is blessed with a business community that cares about all aspects of our county, not just the economy.
The first headline reported on the efforts of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce to start a conversation about gun violence and gun safety in our community, following the horrific workplace shooting at an area business. of Smithsburg in which three people were killed and one injured.
The second title was about the chamber’s new initiative to create an inclusion committee to foster greater engagement with minority businesses in the county, targeting underrepresented business populations, such as black, LGBTQ+ or deaf.
This is not the kind of news you might expect from a traditional chamber of commerce. But in Frederick County, things are a little different.
Armed violence has dominated the news recently. The Smithburg incident came just days after mass murders at a Texas school and a Buffalo supermarket.
The day after the Smithburg shooting, chamber president and CEO Rick Weldon told a previously scheduled meeting of chamber members, “We should be kind enough to have a community conversation about the fact that we shouldn’t worry about sending our children to school. ”
“We shouldn’t have to worry about workers who are just going to work only to not get home safely that night,” Weldon added, quoted by News-Post reporter Mary Grace Keller.
Part of this broader view of Frederick’s well-being is due to the fact that Weldon came from a political and governmental background. He was Frederick County Commissioner and held offices in the towns of Frederick and Brunswick.
He was elected to the House of Delegates representing our county, first as a Republican, but later as an Independent. He had a reputation in the Legislative Assembly as someone who wanted to get things done, regardless of party positions.
But the chamber members themselves deserve our thanks for choosing someone like him and for supporting him as he led the group.
Weldon announced that he would “ask” Frederick County Leadership Program alumni to join in a conversation about gun safety.
Leadership Frederick County is a long-standing educational program established by the chamber. Weldon estimated it has 1,600 alumni, a large and diverse cross section of the Frederick community.
“I don’t care what you think about the Second Amendment,” Weldon said. “I don’t care what you think about the state of mental health in our community. I don’t care about the ideological issues that cause us to run to our tribal positions when these horrific events occur. But I think we should be big enough, smart enough, curious enough to all sit down together and have a (safety) conversation.
“We might be able to chart a new path for other communities to follow,” Weldon told chamber members.
At the same meeting, Weldon and the chamber talked about creating a new committee to reach out to minority-owned businesses. Tentatively called the Alliance for Economic Inclusion, it will be chaired by Jarad Bowens, who manages charity events.
“We really want to try to address inclusion, access and representation within the chamber itself,” Bowens told our reporter.
Weldon said at the meeting, “By focusing on helping our minority-owned small businesses, everyone, everyone will benefit from the financial success this effort will create.”
He pointed to a 2018 study on business and racial equity by the WK Kellogg Foundation, titled “The Business Case for Racial Equity,” which he said “proves the old adage that a rising tide lifts all the boats”.
These two chamber initiatives show how deeply our business community is involved in the overall success of our community.
Weldon deserves praise for showing leadership on issues of vital importance beyond economic development and growth. We look forward to the conversation about gun safety and expanding the business community itself.