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A Generational Take From Moody Nolan

June 12, 2020
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Like many leaders, Curt and Jonathan Moody see the unrest gripping Columbus as a tragic reminder of the unequal systems underpinning American cities.

To them, it’s a chance to refocus the conversation on inequality with more urgency.

Curt Moody, a Linden native, founded Moody Nolan Inc. in 1982 and remains chairman of what is now the largest African American owned and managed design firm in the United States, with 12 offices and 200 employees.

As the firm has grown, he’s pushed the social mission for it the be intentionally diverse across all of its jobs, and also for it to devote philanthropic efforts to building equitable spaces in the cities where it works.

“The past is the past and we cannot change what has transpired,” the elder Moody said. “All we can do now is how do we go forward and what can we implement to improve society and offset some of the issues that continue to plague the country.”

In his view, now is the time to move the conversation about inclusion to a new phase, from hiring practices to community outreach. And it’s time to reexamine the metrics of success for those goals. Companies have to be very intentional about welcoming diverse viewpoints at all levels, he said.

“Let’s say we have a large corporation with a 15% minority workforce. Does that mean 15% of the payroll? Oftentimes, no,” Curt Moody said. “We talk about equality, but we don’t base it on equity. That would be a better parallel – for diverse hires in leadership, management and throughout the entire company structure.”

Managing a large minority-owned business carries some challenges and even still, the firm has dealt with prejudice, as the Moodys recently told the American Institute of Architects. Here, they said, is another place where the business community has room to grow and learn.

Jonathan Moody, who took over as Moody Nolan’s CEO this year, put out a statement on the company’s social media this week cycling through his range of emotions in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing demonstrations across the country.

“I am angry. I am sad. I am frustrated,” Moody wrote. “But I have hope. I believe that actionable hope is a form of peaceful protest.” He instead called for “active empathy” and designing communities and spaces that are more inclusive.

Jonathan Moody said he is encouraged by the wide range of companies who are actively trying to build more equitable workplaces.

The Covid-19 pandemic introduces a chance to reinvent how people gather, and the developer has backed mixed-income neighborhood concepts and models that promote black real estate ownership in communities like Linden that often lack it. Doing so helps build generational wealth.

And that development conversation, inevitably, will return to affordable housing, which underlies so many other measures of ensuring economic prosperity across racial lines.

“We find sometimes when a project is happening in a minority community, it’s not funded at the same level,” Curt Moody said. “Maybe it says there are not enough people renting at a certain rate, but there needs to be more of a mix of that.”