Chamber News

Fourteen local organizations join the second Next Level DEIA cohort

January 24th, 2023

The Central Ohio community is vibrant and diverse. We believe businesses should reflect that rich diversity in their inclusive workplaces. While many larger companies have made significant investments to implement effective DEIA strategies, the cost and expertise required are often not feasible for most small to mid-sized businesses and non-profit organizations. 

To address this need directly, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio partnered to offer a second Next Level DEIA cohort, an accelerator program for small to mid-sized business leaders to design and implement customized DEIA strategies.   

The following businesses have been selected to participate in the second cohort. 

The Saunders PR Group

Dupler Office

Aventi Enterprises


Columbus Zoo


Portfolio Creative

The Breathing Association

MA Design

Jobs Ohio

One Columbus

CPS Solutions

ARC Industries

Urban Business Development Center (The U)

In addition, we added two facilitators, Varsey Laurelle, owner of Varsey Laurelle, LLC. and Ankit Shah, owner of Inclusive Employee Consulting, LLC. Their expertise in this space will add even more value to the program.

Here’s what program participants are saying about their experience thus far.

“This is an important opportunity for our growth and next level positioning as a thriving business,” said E. Gayle Saunders, Founder, Owner and CEO of The Saunders PR Group. “I look forward to the teachings and learnings over the course of our sessions.” 

“Thank you to the Chamber for bringing together a group of diverse individuals and companies who want to learn, share, and work together to develop DEIA plans that not only tailored to each our companies but are also achievable,” said Scott Fitzgerald, Vice President of Human Resources for Marker, Inc. “I am grateful to be a part of a cohort that encourages open and honest discussion, no matter your level of knowledge. We are all here to develop individual DEIA plans for our organizations, and these authentic conversations will do nothing but positively influence these plans, our organizations, and our increasingly diverse communities.” 

“MA Design’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion only continues to grow, made evident in the investments being made by the firm internally, and externally, to continue to create space for change – literally, and figuratively. We are honored to be a part of the Columbus Chamber’s Next Level DEIA Cohort, and in true alignment with our values, confident that together we are stronger.” 

It’s Great that the Columbus Chamber of Commerce Foundation recognizes the need to continue efforts to enhance DEIA initiatives, I am very excited to be apart of this cohort.

For more information about the program, please contact.

Sherrice Thomas, VP, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access at The Columbus Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Phone: (614) 496-1143

Opal Brant, Director, Business Solutions, WDBCO
Phone: (614) 559-5062 ext. 408


About The Columbus Chamber of Commerce Foundation

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s goal is to connect identified potential pipelines to employers through facilitating connections and events that bring job seekers together with HR professionals and decision-makers within our membership. Our mission is to improve the economic well-being of under-served individuals through enhanced access to workforce development programming and employment opportunities.

About the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio

The Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio (WDBCO) is a Non-Profit Organization that plays a leadership role in regional workforce initiatives. Our mission is to partner with area businesses and community organizations on workforce needs so that people are fully employed at their ability and potential in the thriving Central Ohio economy. WDBCO is also the fiscal agent and strategic leader of the local OhioMeansJobs Columbus-Franklin County Job Center, located at 1111 East Broad Street inside the Jerry Hammond Building.