Annual Meeting Shows DRC Pivot Toward Diversity, Pandemic Fight

Roughly a year ago, 1,700 North Texas business leaders crowded into the Hilton Anatole’s Trinity Ballroom to dance the “Cupid Shuffle” with Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall, who presided over the Dallas Regional Chamber’s 2020 Annual Meeting.

One pandemic and a year later, many of those same leaders fired up their laptops/PCs and joined the DRC for its first-ever virtual annual meeting on Thursday, March 4.

The online format both prevented the further spread of COVID-19 and allowed the DRC to use an app – called Remo – to permit meeting attendees to safely mingle and have serendipitous encounters in break-out sessions.

Those attending the one-hour, 5-minute meeting also learned of the rapid pivots the DRC made to help members deal with the global pandemic, and racial tensions sparked by the murder of George Floyd and the calls for social justice in the Dallas Region and nationwide.

“The 2020 we all planned for…and expected…was out the window,” DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey told the 1,400 who signed up for the event, whose presenting sponsor was Ernst & Young LLP (EY).

Petroskey and more than 35 business leaders appeared in the presentation, spelling out the role that the DRC and its partners played in the shifting social and business landscape.

Among them was 2019 DRC Chair Chris Nielsen, executive vice president of product support & chief quality officer for Toyota Motor North America, who described the DRC’s launch of a microsite that connected about 58,000 job seekers to nearly 250,000 jobs posted in the Dallas Region.

“The DRC went into high gear to produce and distribute trusted information to our 800 members and the larger community,” Nielsen said. “One contribution we made that I’m most proud of is the website feature we put together to help those who lost their jobs to find new jobs quickly.”

DRC 2020 Chair John Olajide – president and CEO of AXXESS – unveiled the DRC’s new organizational structure, which includes diversity and inclusion.

“From the early days of the pandemic, we were seeing disparities between the haves and the have nots in education, employment and health care,” Olajide said. “Then, George Floyd was killed in late May, which created a groundswell of outrage and social unrest throughout the country…including here in Dallas.”

Olajide said the DRC board moved quickly, creating created a new permanent board council on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which would focus on diversity in leadership; education and workforce; community investment in underserved areas; and policing and criminal justice policies.

2021 DRC Chair Michelle Vopni – Managing Partner of EY’s Dallas Office – announced the beginning of the DRC’s new three-year plan, and introduced UT Southwestern’s Dr. Daniel Podolsky, in discussing local efforts to defeat COVID-19.

“The surest way for us to get past the pandemic, and fully open up the economy again, is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Vopni said.

Watch a recording of the full meeting, and learn more about the DRC’s new three-year plan and organizational structure.