Cincinnati City Hall. Photo by John Alexander Reese

By Valeria Cummings Swope

City of Cincinnati

He has only been on the job for just over 12 months, but Department of Economic Inclusion Director, Collin Mays, is making great strides and knocking down barriers as he continues the mission to ensure economic opportunity and inclusion for all citizens seeking to do business with the City of Cincinnati.

Over the past year, DEI has implemented a dynamic set of initiatives, programs, and partnerships to support small businesses, increase workforce development, and promote equitable economic policies. There has been a steady increase in the number of businesses certified with the City of Cincinnati, while decreasing the time length for certifications. Partnerships with area businesses and organizations in the diversity eco-system have strengthened, which has led to a major mind-shift in how economic inclusion is viewed across the Cincinnati area.

“This is a great time to be a small business owner in the Cincinnati area,” said Director Mays. “Growth is taking place here in the Cincinnati/Hamilton County area. There are opportunities unlike we’ve seen before. DEI is right in the middle of it all. Working with, and talking to all the major players, seeing where our certified businesses can fit in. We’re on the cusp of something great, and we’re ready to roll.”

Collin Mays, Director, Department of Economic Inclusion. Provided by City of Cincinnati

Businesses certified by the City of Cincinnati agree. Over the last year DEI has been showcasing the success of several city-certified businesses, who say their certifications are paying off for them. Here are just a few comments: 

“Cincinnati is a great place to work, play and live and the efforts of the City’s Department of DEI are a big reason diverse businesses can be excited about change for the better in our city,”  said Barbara Smith, President, Journey Steel. 

“Being a certified MBE with the City of Cincinnati has allowed Jostin Construction to help the city meet their participation goals with a workforce that reflects the communities that we all work and live in. In doing so, we continue to serve our community, improve opportunities for others and stay true to our values,” said Albert Smitherman, President, Jostin Construction. 

“The Department of Economic Inclusion has provided opportunities that help level the playing field, allowing ABEL Building Systems to compete and win against many major corporations. We have formed relationships with developers and private firms through Meet and Greet sessions, networking and partnered with other certified businesses,” said Eric Ruffin, COO, Abel Building Systems 

The next step is the release of the updated diversity study which could open the door to additional opportunities across the board. “Hamilton County announced its results earlier this year, and we’re seeing the fruits of that study right now,” said Mays. “Hamilton County is looking to the City to help certify businesses it can work with, since it currently doesn’t have enough staff on board to do the work. We’re excited about pushing our numbers up while bringing even more opportunity to the County. We may be able to do even more once the City’s study is released.” 

More information can be found on the website at as well as DEI’s social media platforms. 

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