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National Urban League Planning For 'Digital Revolution' At Columbus Conference

Greater Columbus Convention Center

How to use technology to improve the economy, housing and education top the agenda at the National Urban League conference in Columbus this week. 

“Save Our Cities: Powering The Digital Revolution,” is the theme of the four-day conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The non-partisan civil rights organization selected Columbus for several reasons.  

"It’s got a great corporate presence. It’s got a progressive-minded political leadership. It’s got a cohesion between its civic, business and political leadership,” says Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League.

Morial explains technology permeates our lives in every way. 

“I think technology is both a disrupter and an enabler," Morial says. "It is pervasive in every single thing we do, the way we communicate, the way we learn."

Morial says certain jobs may diminish because of technological advancements, but other jobs will emerge in their place. 

“What we’re going to be examining at the conference in Columbus is making sure that urban communities and communities of color are not in the caboose, but are arriving in the front of the train with everyone else,” Morial says. “So that the job opportunities and the economic opportunities and the business opportunities also benefit urban communities and communities of color.”

Morial says the National Urban League supports building educational systems that give every child an opportunity to achieve their potential, and that can include some charter schools.

“If well-run, if well-managed, if properly staffed, it can make a difference and it can get great outcomes,” Morial says.

Morial says the schools getting the best outcomes have longer school days and a longer school year. He says his organization does not support school vouchers.

The National Urban League will also hold a jobs fair at the convention, with more than 50 employers attending. While the U.S. unemployment rate remains low at 4 percent, Ohio’s unemployment rate jumped to 4.5 percent in June.

Morial says most of the credit for working to lower unemployment should go to former President Barack Obama. Morisal says the stimulus program and other policies dropped the jobless numbers, but more needs to happen.

“So the real test for the Trump administration when it comes to the economy is, will wages rise and will economic growth and job creation be sustained?” Morial says.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.