An economic recovery advisory group recommended that Minneapolis invest more in youth employment, prioritize work with communities of color and expand access to money for entrepreneurs, businesses and first-time homebuyers.
With an over-arching goal to “re-create the Black middle class in Minneapolis,” the advisory group noted the importance of helping people of color hit hard during the pandemic and civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. About 42% of Minneapolis’ population is people of color, according to the 2020 census.
“The recommendations are precise … we want to make sure that the precision of our solutions now are matching the precision of the harm that was initially inflicted on our Black and brown communities,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said. “And this is about doing things better. This is about doing things right.”
The economic recovery work group presented its ideas Monday on how the city should boost its economic recovery efforts related to the pandemic and the unrest. Among the recommendations made were:
- Supporting manufacturing, high-tech firms and other industries that provide employment opportunities for living wage jobs in or near historically marginalized communities.
- Increasing funding for efforts to expand sustainable and affordable homeownership to residents of color. Boosting programs such as the Stable Homes Stable Schools, which gives rental assistance to homeless children and their families and provides incentives for landlords to provide affordable units.
- Increasing funding for the Commercial Property Development Fund — which launched in 2019 to provide gap financing for small businesses — to rebuild stronger commercial and cultural corridors.
- Expanding support and boosting the number of developers of color in all capital investment programs, including technical assistance and mentoring.
The goal is to protect small businesses from getting displaced when the values go up in the neighborhoods they helped build and to allow them to reap the economic gains of their work, Frey said. Minneapolis is working with BIPOC developers on a daily basis and preserving naturally occurring affordable housing to keep people housed and to protect the city’s affordable housing stock.
Frey convened the group — which consists of 26 people from private businesses, nonprofits and labor organizations — in November 2021.
The group’s co-chair PJ Hill said they wanted to make sure they “didn’t reinvent the wheel” but build on ideas developed by the Minneapolis Forward Community Now Coalition, which was put together by the mayor in the wake of the unrest in 2020.
Hill said his group was tasked with key issues on workforce, housing, and the city’s business community. They centered their work around racial equity with a focus on those who have historically been left out of economic development.
“We built up their recommendations, and we tried to take it to another level,” said Hill, a financial adviser with NorthRock Partners and vice president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP. “Our goal was to make sure that we recreate the Black middle class in Minneapolis. We want to make sure we focus on these communities that historically have been left out.”
Adam Duininck, who’s also the co-chair of the group said, a key conversation among members of the work group was how the city can better support the youth for future jobs and better use its resources.
“The biggest thing that we started with is how do we align our resources? How do we think about what the city does well, what we could do better? And how do we work together with the public, private and nonprofit sectors to expand our reach as a city as a driver here,” said Duininck, who’s the director of governmental affairs at the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.
Frey lauded the group’s work, noting their recommendations will be used in how the city spends its federal COVID relief money and puts together its 2023 budget.
The City Council is responsible for vetting city budgets. Council President Andrea Jenkins said Monday that she hasn’t had a chance to fully look at the recommendations.
Council member Jeremiah Ellison favors the equity focused recommendations and supports a funding increase for the city’s Commercial Property Development Fund, which he helped design. Ellison called the recommendations an “encouraging” start, but noted that the city must follow through with it to address “a long legacy of denying Black prosperity that we as a city and a country quite frankly need to overcome.”
“If this is a new way we engage the Black community and other communities of color, it could be incredibly meaningful,” Ellison said. “If we fail to make this approach last, it’ll amount to little more than a trendy tokenization program.”
Data editor MaryJo Webster contributed to this story.