Glendale Chamber of Commerce CEO: "We need to respect and celebrate that we all bring something different to a community."
by Glendale Chamber of Commerce on April 18th, 2016

By One Community

This month I had the opportunity to sit down with Robert, Heidt, the CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, to talk about diversity, inclusion, and economics. As the CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, Heidt understands the importance of having a fully inclusive Arizona that is Open for Business to Everyone. He successfully encouraged the Chamber to sign the UNITY Pledge in 2015, and encouraged business owners and individuals at the State of the City Address in February to sign the UNITY Pledge as well.

When I asked why he signed the UNITY Pledge, Heidt explained that the signed without hesitation because a commitment to diversification allows businesses to thrive and compete on a global level by attracting a strong workforce.

​“It felt like the right thing to do. No hesitation on our part, we have an inclusive policy. Not just as a leader of this organization but as a person, I believe no one should be less than another person,” Heidt said.

Today, only five municipalities have fully inclusive non-discrimination protections, meaning in over 60% of the state a gay or transgender person can still be fired, denied housing, or refused service simply for who they love or who they are. Glendale is among the municipalities that have yet to adopt fully inclusive laws; something Heidt says he hopes will come in time. According to him, timing is everything. He explained that for Glendale and the state of Arizona to adopt fully inclusive laws will take education, dialogue, and understanding. We have to understand and listen to those who contradict our belief system in order to better educate ourselves. Having meaningful and respectful conversations is the key to learning about others’ perspectives. Sometimes we tend to be afraid of what we don’t know and can fall victim to being judgmental. Heidt wants people to understand that LGBT people aren’t looking for special treatment: they want equal treatment.

Heidt went on to explain that from an economical standpoint having statewide LGBT inclusive laws would send a message to the business community. When businesses look to relocate, expand or start anywhere in the world, they look to see if the area of interest has these policies in place. Heidt believes adopting inclusive policies statewide will attract and keep top talent, new businesses and will help the tourism industry grow.

Heidt has a truly compassionate soul and has a really open and welcoming perspective. He puts no blame on people for what they believe. Change is something that is part of our nature. Heidt believes that each generation has its movement, and this is ours.

We shared stories about how we were brought up and I was surprised at how much we had in common. Heidt believes the ways certain things influence us have a lot to do with how we were brought up. He was brought up in a very welcoming, open-minded home and believes that shaped who he is today.

When I thanked Heidt on behalf of ONE Community for supporting equality in Arizona and the UNITY Pledge, he humbly replied that he is just a person but it takes one soul, one leader to chip away and make a difference. It takes leaders to stand up for what’s right and show people the way.

Heidt concluded by saying he wants the state of Arizona to move forward and realize we are not all the same and we need to respect and celebrate that we all bring something different to a community. That is diversity.

Johana Restrepo is ONE Community's Storytelling Intern and a Junior at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism. You can reach Johana @ johana@ONEcommunity.co


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