TALLAHASSEE, FL (April 1, 2021)— Florida is at a crossroads.
“The battle of this generation is between economic equality and economic opportunity—between those who believe that everyone is entitled to equal outcomes and those who believe everyone should have an equal opportunity at earned success.”
-Mark Wilson, Florida Chamber of Commerce, President & CEO
U.S. Congressional Testimony Welfare and Free Enterprise – March 2016
When the Florida Chamber Foundation embarked on a research-driven strategic initiative for Florida’s future, the Florida 2030 Blueprint, the organization and its research staff set out to understand, amongst a variety of issues in Florida, generational poverty and inequities throughout Florida. What the team found has led to our announcement today. There are 10 root causes of generational poverty, and educational opportunities and attainment vary wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Most importantly, if these opportunity gaps are not addressed, Florida will struggle in its effort to become the 10th largest economy in the world by 2030.
Understanding the onus is on the business community to lead and effect real and lasting change, the Florida Chamber Foundation is taking the next step within this important work by launching the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative, a culmination of partnering with dozens of organizations, following the research, and positioning Florida to reach the goals outlined in the Florida 2030 Blueprint.
“The Florida Chamber Foundation is focused entirely on securing Florida’s future by advancing economic opportunity for all regardless of the ZIP code a person is born into. The groundbreaking research conducted by our Foundation’s Chief Economist, Dr. Jerry Parrish, is changing the way business views prosperity,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson. “One’s ZIP code, race, gender, ethnicity, or any other factor should never determine their opportunity to prosper. With the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative, we along with our partners, are investing real resources and a platform behind implementing long-term solutions to finally break the cycle of generational poverty so that every Floridian and every American has the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.”
To assist in these efforts, the Florida Chamber Foundation has developed The Florida Model, a combination of innovative tools to help drive data informed solutions and coalescing efforts to align the business community. “The Florida Chamber Foundation has the unique blend of access, expert analysis, and coalition building experience to actually take such a massive problem and make it digestible,” said Todd Powell, Vice President of Real Estate Development at Weyerhaeuser and Chairman of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “With the Foundation’s groundbreaking development of the Florida Gap Map and the Florida Scorecard, one-of-a-kind partnerships with business leaders at the county and ZIP code level, and existing thought leader summits like Learners to Earners and the Prosperity Summit, the Florida Chamber Foundation is tailor-made to address the issues around equality of opportunity in our state.”
The importance of this work and the Florida Chamber Foundation’s unique ability to unite the Florida business community has been embraced by Florida’s top business leaders. “Focused on the alignment and combination of the Florida Prosperity Project, the Florida Business Alliance for Early Learning Project and the Florida Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Project, the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative aims to tackle the systemic obstacles that hinders opportunities both at the ZIP code level and statewide,” said Susan Towler, Vice President, Florida Blue Foundation; Executive Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Florida Blue, and Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee.
Aligned with the Florida 2030 Blueprint, the key goals of the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative are to ensure that by 2030, Florida’s business community will unite to:
- Reduce the number of Florida children living in poverty in half, to less than 10%
- Ensure 100% of Florida’s 3rd graders are reading at or above grade level
- Work with Florida businesses to identify, promote, and provide the best practices in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion, turning them into standard practices across Florida
“The need to prepare our future workforce is essential as we secure Florida’s future. To do this, we need the leadership of the Florida Chamber Foundation as they champion equality of opportunity for all and follow the Florida 2030 Blueprint to ensure our state is prepared for the 4 million more people who will call Florida home over the next decade,” said Charles Hokanson, Senior Vice President of Florida Community Engagement for Helios Education Foundation.
To lead this initiative, Kyle Baltuch has joined the Florida Chamber Foundation as the Senior Vice President of Equality of Opportunity. He joins the Florida Chamber Foundation with a background in economics and policy research and has experience tackling some of Florida’s most complex issues. The Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative is a major leap in the right direction addressing systemic obstacles that block one’s ability to access opportunities— poverty, early learning, diversity, equity and inclusion, among others.
For Baltuch, he believes the combination of resources and alignment at the Florida Chamber Foundation is the secret formula to address something as large as equality of opportunity. “This Florida Chamber Foundation initiative is aimed at unifying business leaders to ensure every Floridian is given an equal opportunity to secure their future,” said Baltuch. “We are uncovering the hurdles that stand in the way of opportunity, building on the groundbreaking research developed by the Florida Chamber Foundation, pinpointing the neighborhoods that are impacted and identifying unique challenges they face, providing expert insights to determine the resources needed, and working with our network of Florida leaders to ensure those necessary resources are distributed. In doing so, The Florida Model can become part of the national model to address inequality everywhere.”
The Florida Chamber Foundation is seeking business leaders to help lead the charge in securing the future of every Floridian, one ZIP code at a time. To get involved with the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative, contact Kyle Baltuch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.FLChamber.com/EqualityFL.