Two headlines in our newspaper this week were welcome reminders that Frederick County is fortunate to have a business community that cares about all aspects of our county, not just the economy.

The first headline reported on the efforts of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce to start a conversation about gun violence and gun safety in our community, after the terrible workplace shooting at a Smithsburg-area business in which three people were killed and one wounded.

The second headline was about the new initiative by the chamber to create an inclusion committee to foster greater involvement with minority businesses in the county, targeting underrepresented business populations, such as the Black, LGBTQ+ or Deaf communities.

That is not the sort of news you might expect from a traditional chamber of commerce. But in Frederick County, things are a little different.

Gun violence has dominated the news recently. The Smithsburg incident came just days after mass murders at a school in Texas and a supermarket in Buffalo.

On the day after the Smithsburg shooting, chamber President/CEO Rick Weldon told a previously scheduled chamber members meeting: “We ought to be good enough to have a community conversation about the fact that we shouldn’t worry about sending our children to school.”

“We shouldn’t have to worry about workers who are just going to work to not come home safely that evening,” Weldon added, as quoted by News-Post reporter Mary Grace Keller.

Part of this wider view of the welfare of Frederick is due to the fact that Weldon came from a background in politics and government. He was a Frederick County commissioner and held positions with the cities of Frederick and Brunswick.

He was elected to the House of Delegates representing our county, first as a Republican, but later as an independent. He had a reputation in the legislature as someone who wanted to get things done, without regard to party positions.

But chamber members themselves deserve our thanks for selecting someone like him, and for standing with him as he steers the group.

Weldon announced he would be “petitioning” the alumni of the Leadership Frederick County program to participate in a conversation on gun safety.

Leadership Frederick County is a long-running education program put on by the chamber. Weldon estimated it has 1,600 alumni, a broad and diverse cross-section of the Frederick community.

“I don’t care how you feel about the Second Amendment,” Weldon said. “I don’t care how you feel about the state of mental health in our community. I don’t care about the ideological issues that drive us to run to our tribal positions when these horrific events occur. But I think we ought to be big enough, smart enough, curious enough to all sit down together and have a conversation (about safety).”

“We might be able to set a new course for other communities to be able to follow,” Weldon told chamber members.

At the same meeting, Weldon and the chamber talked about the creation of a new committee to reach out to minority-owned businesses. Tentatively called the Economic Inclusion Alliance, it will be chaired by Jarad Bowens, who operates Benefactor Events.

“We’re just really out to try and address inclusion, access and representation within the chamber membership itself,” Bowens told our reporter.

Weldon told the meeting: “By focusing on assisting our small minority-owned businesses, everyone, everyone will benefit from the financial success this effort will create.”

He referred to a 2018 business and racial equity study by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, called “The Business Case for Racial Equity,” which he said “proves the old adage that a rising tide lifts all boats.”

These two initiatives by the chamber show clearly how much our business community is deeply involved in the total success of our community.

Weldon deserves praise for showing leadership on issues of vital importance beyond economic development and growth. We look forward to the conversation on gun safety, and to the broadening of the business community itself.

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