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Deborah Levine is an award-winning, best-selling author of 14 books. As Editor of the American Diversity Report, she received the 2013 Champion of Diversity Award from diversitybusiness.com and the Excellence Award from the Tennessee Economic Council on Women. Her writing about cultural diversity spans decades with articles published in The American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, The Bermudian Magazine, and The Harvard Divinity School Bulletin. She earned a National Press Association Award, was a Blogger with The Huffington Post, and is featured on C-Span/ BookTV.

Inspiration Stories & Strategies of Southern Women

How do Chattanooga’s women overcome obstacles to Think Big and help others do the same? Chattanooga’s Lean In – Women Groundbreakers tackled the question at their September Think Tank meeting. Their Success Stories and How-to Stories have inspired family members, colleagues, friends, community leaders, church youth groups, and former inmates. The Words of Wisdom from these groundbreakers will inspire you, too.

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Tennessee’s First African-American Female Public Defender: Ardena Garth — by Deborah Levine

Ardena Garth Hicks was the first African American female public defender in Tennessee’s Hamilton County. When the State of Tennessee created the office of public defenders 18 years ago, it was an appointed position by the Governor. Ardena was the only applicant with both defense and prosecutorial experience. Of the 27 initially appointed public defenders, only two were black females.

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Lean In Think Tank: Chattanooga’s Groundbreaking Women – by Deborah Levine

The Women’s Council on Diversity has inspired Chattanooga since its first meeting the day after 9/11. The influx of international companies led to our community-wide Global Leadership Class six years later, followed by Women GroundBreakers Storytelling. Documented in the American Diversity Report, these projects demonstrate how a small Southern city tackles its growing diversity and internationalization. Women Ground Breakers is now a Think Tank and part of Lean In, the international women’s movement begun by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

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Globalization Progresses in Chattanooga – by Deborah Levine

The transformation of the South by international industry has picked up speed. In 1974, there were only 19 foreign-owned manufacturers in Tennessee. They were valued at $649 million. In 1995, the state had 400 foreign-owned firms with a value of $15 billion. By 2013, the number of foreign-owned firms had more than doubled to 864 with a value of $30 billion. According to the Global Location Trends Report by the IBM Institute, Tennessee led the nation in jobs created by foreign owned firms.

Five years ago, there was no International Business Council (IBC) of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Chattanooga. Today, IBC Past President Anjelika Riano, current President Anton Demenchuk, both immigrants from the Ukraine, and President-Elect Marty Lester took turns informing, amusing, and congratulating the multi-lingual audience on the transformation. The family-like atmosphere was continued by the Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development, Charles Wood, who shared how he enjoyed bringing companies to town for the shock value. “For a community of our size, it’s very surprising and very metropolitan.”

As for the future, almost weekly there are announcements in The Chattanooga Times Free Press of companies planning to relocate to the area or expand existing factories and services. Wood reported that a billion dollars worth of projects are in the pipeline to Chattanooga, half of that coming from international companies. He praised Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga for making the transformation possible, and thanked the event sponsors: Chattanooga Coca Cola and Bryan College.

The Chamber’s VP of Public Policy, Rob Bradham, introduced the topic, What International Companies Expect from Chattanooga’s Workforce. He also introduced the panel of HR executives from global companies with plants in the Chattanooga area.
Sebastian Patta from automobile manufacturer Volkswagen.
Dr. Erika Burk from polysilicon manufacturer Wacker.
Joe Fuqua from construction manufacturer Komatsu.
Tony Cates from automobile parts manufacturer Gestamp.

The panelists’ friendly competition was entertaining and light hearted, but they were serious about recruiting and training of a local workforce. Describing the uphill battle, Cates said, “Good folks are hard to find. I talk to groups helping people get jobs. I go into churches, talk to schools and teachers, explain the skill set the need. We bring the kids in for tours and develop partnerships, but it’s going to be tough…”

To encourage and educate promising Chattanoogans, the companies provide internships, apprenticeships, plant tours, and partnerships with schools and colleges. They anticipated the lack of high-tech skills. They did not expect either the substantial number failing drug tests of the lack of education basics. Burk explained that Wacker made a $3 million investment to develop a college program to meet the company’s needs. “It was surprising that early applicants couldn’t pass the reading and math literacy test. Remedial courses were necessary.”

Dedication should match the technical skills. Cates explained, “The best strategy is to find good people and train them up. We started internships with high school students, but how do you get kids to commit and have the patience to get degrees?” He added, “Program a robot and Gestamp will hire you.” Patta shared his perspective, “They have to stay for a 10-hour shift, be there on time, and follow Volkswagen’s policies. High school graduates have no idea of what goes on. They need more practical workplace experience.”

The panelists concluded by asking for referrals of local candidates to intern in their international companies. While they currently import their most specialized engineers, especially for the Research and Development departments now located here, they’re open to local referrals at that level, too. The transformation of a small Southern city into a global village progresses.

Race Relations and the Confederate Flag – by Deborah Levine

Morris Dees, Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), was the featured speaker at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga annual First Amendment dinner. Mr. Dees was introduced by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. Mayor Berke, a member of Chattanooga’s Jewish community was comfortable in the Federation setting and shared that he was not wearing a tie due to the well-known perils of ketchup. Picking up on the informality, Dees removed his own tie and listened, along with a packed house, to the mayor’s remarks.

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Chattanoogans Mourn, Pray, and Hope – by Deborah Levine

The traffic was fierce on Martin Luther King Boulevard as people flocked to the community-wide interfaith service at Mount Olivet Baptist Church. Olivet, had grown from humble beginning in the 1920s to one of the city’s largest African-American churches. Yet, the church was packed, overflowing with elected officials, police officers and FBI, military veterans, and media among the diverse crowd of Black & White, Christians, Jews, and Muslim. Together, we prayed over the loss of four marines and a wounded sailor, who would die just hours later. We prayed over the trauma to our entire community inflicted by lone gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

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Is it Wise to Trust You? – by Deborah Levine

There’s no escaping the lack of trust these days from local officials to world powers. Whether we get our news from television, newspapers or the internet, we’re inundated with highly emotional trust issues. Take the examples of the turmoil around a third bailout for Greece, the fear over a nuclear arms agreement with Iran, and the disgust with declared international truces in Ukraine, Korea, and Yemen and undeclared domestic truces in Ferguson and Charleston. In the US, trust issues will be a dominant theme in the presidential campaign as candidates accuse, blame, and attack. Reporters rely on phrases such as “can’t trust,” “lack of trust,” “trust but verify,”and “rebuild trust.” For most of us, these phrases are just diplomatic talk for “What were you thinking?” and “No, and Hell no!”

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Was Charleston Terrorism or What? – by Deborah Levine

Nine people were killed by Dylann Storm Roof in Charleston’s historic black church and the debate about how to categorize his actions is fierce. Is it domestic terrorism or mass murder? Is it a case of drug-induced mental illness or a hate crime? The debate embraces some of the most controversial issues of our time: guns, race, alienated young men, and the confederate flag. The question before us should not be which of the labels and issues are relevant and correct. Rather, the question should be how to address the volatile mix now surfacing in terrifying blasts with increasing frequency.

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In honor of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – by Deborah Levine

This article is reprinted honor of Madeleine K. Albright turning 78-years old.
Albright is a petite woman who can fill large university auditorium with her presence. These days, Dr. Albright teaches, lectures and writes. She frequently speaks to university audiences land enjoys telling young people that they can be anything they want to be with hard work. Her audiences listen enthusiastically and a recent crowd at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was no exception. A packed house and 2 overflow rooms with video feeds were arranged for the presentation by our 64th Secretary of State. She was the highest ranking woman in government from 1997-2001 and the first female Secretary of State.

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Hispanic Targeted Ad Spend Increased by 63% since 2010 – by AHAA

Study Shows Steep Increase in Corporate Efforts to Target Hispanics

The top 500 U.S. marketers are allocating about 8.4 percent of their overall ad spend to Hispanic dedicated efforts, this is up from 5.5 percent in 2010, according to a new report from AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing. Over the past five years, the top 500 advertisers boosted their spending in Hispanic targeted media by 63 percent or $2.7 billion from $4.3 billion in 2010 to $7.1 billion. The top 500 advertisers boosted their average spending from $9 million in Hispanic targeted media in 2010 to $14 million now.

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