Chamber News

Twelve Local Organizations Join the Third Next Level DEIA Cohort

September 14th, 2023

The Central Ohio community is vibrant and diverse, and rich diversity should be reflected in our region’s inclusive workplaces. While many larger companies have made significant investments to implement equity and inclusion strategies, the cost and expertise required are often only feasible for some small to mid-sized businesses and non-profit organizations. 

To address this need directly, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio continue to partner. Together, they launched the third Next Level DEIA cohort, an accelerator program for small to mid-sized business leaders to design and implement customized DEIA strategies. Encova joined the effort and invested in scholarships for several participants in this cohort. Those who complete the accelerator program will receive a certification and a digital badge.

Sherrice Sledge-Thomas, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, will partner with Varsey Laurelle, owner of Varsey Laurelle, LLC, to guide the cohort participants through the accelerator. “Next Level DEIA is a game changer,” said Sherrice Sledge-Thomas. “Equity and inclusion should be systemic, not performative. A part of the way an organization conducts business. We’re here to help organizations make that happen.”

The following organizations have been selected to participate in the third cohort. 

Buckeye Innovation

Cascade Hemophilia Consortium

City Year Columbus

Community Shelter Board

EASE Logistics

In Spirit, Power, and Truth Publishing, LLC


Kwame Cleaning Services

Land-Grant Brewing Company

New Directions Career Center

Progressive OT Services

Whitehall City Schools

Working with the Chamber of Commerce on this initiative has been a rewarding experience for us, local employers, and the central Ohio workforce. As a result of this initiative, participating employers have been able to attract and retain untapped talent. This initiative has improved the lives of individuals from varied backgrounds and impacted the success of the Central Ohio economy. As Stephen Covey proclaimed, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” 

Windy L Murphy, Associate Director of Business Solutions, The Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio 

“This experience is a great way for small to mid-sized businesses who lack an in-house diversity, equity inclusion and access resource to receive some of the best training and support available anywhere.   The Encova Foundation of Ohio is proud of the financial support provided to make this experience available for several members of the cohort.”

Ralph Smithers, Jr. AVP of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Relations

For more information about the program, please contact.

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

Windy Murphy, Director, Business Services, WDBCO
Phone: (614) xxx ext. xxx


About The Columbus Chamber of Commerce

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce is a mission-driven nonprofit organization serving more than 2,300 organizations throughout the Columbus Region. The Columbus Chamber, founded in 1884, is committed to advancing a thriving business community and provides support in the areas of research, government affairs, marketing, diversity, equity, inclusion and access, education, and talent and workforce development.

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.