Chamber, business thrive on diversity

Published 9:11 am Monday, February 27, 2017

by Bryan Stephens

In life and in business, diversity and inclusion always enable success. Diversity of background, insight and opinion foster growth and innovation.

As Black History Month comes to a close, the Hampton Roads Chamber encourages its partners, members and communities to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our minority-owned companies and minority business leaders who have demonstrated inspirational leadership and business acumen over their careers.

Hampton Roads’ diversity is one of the most valuable assets to its economic development. A study by published in the Virginian-Pilot in 2015, noted that Hampton Roads is the 13th best region in the country for African-Americans to launch a business.

Hampton Roads also boasts many residents who have broken through barriers in their lifetime, including Kenny Alexander, the first African-American mayor of Norfolk; Yvonne Miller, the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates; E.L. Hamm, pioneer in technical business consulting and management and a humanitarian and philanthropist; and Mary Christian, education advocate and among the first African-Americans in the Virginia House of Delegates.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention Delceno Miles, the first African-American chair of the Hampton Roads Chamber, who served her term in 2002 and is still providing valuable leadership in the Chamber and the community.

The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud of its diverse business community and the achievements of all of our minority business leaders, but we are acutely aware that increasing diversity is a continuing, deliberate process.

We’re working on it ourselves. In recent years we’ve been mindful of our need to remedy the disparity we’ve seen in our past to better reflect the diversity of the business community. We’re the Hampton Roads Chamber, and we want to represent all of Hampton Roads inclusively.

We hope our partners and members will join us in our endeavor to recognize and celebrate the incredible impact our minority-owned businesses and business leaders have on our community, not only during Black History Month, but every month.

The Chamber means business in Hampton Roads, which means we support all of our members, every business, every leader, every day.

BRYAN STEPHENS is the chief executive officer of the Hampton Roads Chamber. For more information about the Chamber, visit