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Moving ‘Ferguson Forward’: Emerson to Receive 2015 Corporate Diversity Award

A year ago following the unrest, Emerson embarked on a program called “Ferguson Forward” to provide support for community enrichment and development in Ferguson and north St. Louis County.

Today, Emerson’s commitment has grown to $8.5 million and 30 programs among four pillars of focus: early childhood education, youth jobs, scholarships for college, technical and trade careers, and business support and training.

Executive Vice President Patrick Sly, who served on the governor-appointed Ferguson Commission, was among a team that designed the initiative for the global manufacturing company.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about education and jobs,” Sly said.

Starting at early childhood, if students have the opportunity to get a quality education, which leads to better jobs, “you can solve a lot of the underlying issues in our community,” he said.

On Friday, November 20, Emerson will receive The St. Louis American Foundation’s 2015 Corporate Diversity award at the 16th annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon, which will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. The networking reception begins at 11 a.m., and the luncheon program at noon.

“Giving back to the communities where our people live and work is part of Emerson’s DNA,” said David Farr, chairman and chief executive officer at Emerson. “We are honored to help our North County neighbors rebuild and revitalize their businesses and establish education and training programs to benefit the area’s youth so that they can have greater opportunities to succeed.”

Emerson’s support for early childhood education remains a priority, Sly said. They recently were able to “plug a gap” in funding of the Ferguson-Florissant School District’s Head Start program, which helps provide young students, ages three and four, with five full days of preschool classes along with before and after care. After the district had lost some funding, Emerson stepped in with a $137,000 investment.

Now, struggling families are able to participate in the Head Start program because they do not have to make any payments themselves, he said.

Emerson also invested $77,800 in the New Horizons Early Childhood Center. The investment supported construction of a new fenced playground with updated equipment, refurbishing of the gym and technological resources such as new computers.

Emerson has devoted $4.95 million towards scholarships, including at Harris-Stowe University, Ranken Technical College, and University of Missouri–St. Louis. That number also includes scholarships to area high schools Lutheran North High School, Incarnate Word Academy and North County Christian School, as well as Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School.

“These students give back to the community as well, through their involvement with a tutoring program focused on helping middle school students,” said Tamiko Armstead, president of Cardinal Ritter.

Emerson donated $750,000 to STL Youth Jobs, a program that focuses on long-term success by providing education, job coaching and ongoing employment support even after a participant has secured a job.

Seventy-five young people completed this past year’s program, with nearly 70 percent finding permanent employment or advanced training. The success of the STL Youth Jobs program inspired Emerson to make an additional $500,000 donation to the program’s second round, creating another 100 job opportunities.

Emerson continues to support Save Our Sons, a north St. Louis County job training and placement program launched by the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

With Emerson’s $200,000 commitment and support from the surrounding business community, 500 African-American and other young men in Ferguson and north St. Louis County will receive intensive career coaching.

The program helps young men between ages 21-40 secure and maintain a job. It also provides participants with strategies for advancing in their chosen industry.

Save Our Sons will soon have a symbolic new home.

In July, Emerson participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Urban League Community Empowerment Center of Ferguson. Set to open in 2016 at the site of the former QuikTrip, the center will house Save Our Sons along with specialized resources to help meet community needs.

Emerson strives for diversity within its own workforce. In 2014, the company had nearly 32,000 employees in the United States, as well as more globally. For their U.S. employees, 22 percent were minority and 27 percent were women.

“Emerson is all about innovation,” Sly said. “That’s why we’ve survived for 125 years. Diversity is an important part of that.”

The 16th annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon will be held Friday, Nov. 20 at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, with a networking reception at 11 a.m. and luncheon program at noon. Tickets are $100 for VIP/Preferred seating, $75 for general admission. Call 314-533-8000 or visit www.stlamerican.com for more information or to purchase tickets.

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Rebecca Rivas

Special to The Informer via The St. Louis American

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