COMMUNITY VOICES | Beyond pipes: Master plumber benefits from Section 3 classes

The road to becoming a master plumber takes almost as many years of study as that of a doctor – six years to be exact, of classes and apprenticeships and seemingly endless hoops to jump through for certifications and licensing.Plumbing is something that has been part of Vincent Lopez’s life since he was a teenager working for his dad, a few hours here and there with his uncle, and on some projects with his brothers; Lopez is a known name in plumbing in the Twin Cities. Out of high school he got his union card, then the recession hit and jobs were few. It was time, Lopez thought, to start his own business, and that’s when those long hours came in that would take him from a Journeyman to Master Plumber.At 32, Lopez is busy running his own business— Service Tech Plumbing— and he’s confident that those hours have made him the best plumber he can be. It was a class he took through Neighborhood Development Center, he said, that made him a better businessman. In fact, Service Tech Plumbing, LLC was just selected as the winner of the 2014 Best of HomeAdvisor Award, recognizing top industry professionals based on exceptional quality, service and value.NDC partners with the City of St. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Homegrown talent has designs on a prosperous North Minneapolis

Jamil Ford lives and works in North Minneapolis. His relationship goes far beyond that though; he believes that his business, Mobilize Design Architecture, is an important part of creating a prosperous, dynamic and safe community there. His passion is to design beautiful and accessible buildings and housing at busy, blighted or crime-ridden intersections to spur economic development. Prosperity, security and pride, he believes, will follow.Ford is one of those rare guys who had his path mapped out in the 8th grade. He was the kid who was corralling friends to haul logs, lumber and railroad ties to build the clubhouse he designed. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | St. Paul Hmong Market a local success, international model

A few years ago, there was not a bank in the Twin Cities that would negotiate a loan to help finance a cultural shopping hub. Now, in the eyes of one man, it’s satisfying when those same banks clamor to be at your service.It’s the case with Hmong Village, the 105,000 square foot urban market on St. Paul’s East Side. Shongleng Yang is one of the original investors and now the president of the giant restaurant/retail/produce/professional gathering spot for the St. Paul Hmong community. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The element of discipline that leads to success

A microcosm of the transformative work that Dalton Outlaw and Element Boxing and Fitness does, comes in the form of a young man named Deonte.Deonte, according to Outlaw, walked into Element about five years ago as an unmotivated teenager on the doorstep of making some pretty bad choices. He stuck with an intense training routine, working and sweating nearly everyday at the Element gym. He’s turned his life around, Outlaw says. “He committed to something positive and that correlated to life in the outside world.” Deonte now has a good job and is entrusted with teaching boxing skills to the young children in the gym.Outlaw and his partner and childhood friend Ceresso Fort built the business of Element Boxing and Fitness and the nonprofit Element Boxing Academy not just to provide their hometown of St. Paul with a much-needed boxing gym, but also to capture kids like Deonte at an early age and give them a community where they can learn respect, self-esteem and discipline.Except for the boxing ring in the middle, there is little or nothing of the Element gym that reminds you of a Rocky movie: huge east facing windows, clean and airy, children playing amid a forest of punching bags while their mothers lunge across mats carrying heavy weights; boxers of various ages pummel bags or spar in the ring. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES| Juggling life’s choices from the kitchen

When most of us shudder at the thought of feeding 100 people, Lachelle Cunningham’s wheels start turning. She’s thinking: What’s fresh and available? What ethnic cuisine should I explore? Which dish should I prepare that’s tried and true and where can I be completely creative?The entrepreneur chef, owner of Chelles’ Kitchen LLC, has rented space at Kitchen in the Market at Midtown Global Market. Despite juggling a staggering number of balls, including two young children, culinary school, teaching after school classes at Twin Cities’ high schools and junior highs and regular catering jobs, she is focused, energized and with the assistance of Neighborhood Development Center’s training program, ready to take on that meal of 100 – or ten times that.Lachelle has been preparing for all the aspects of life as a professional chef since she was a girl. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Eagles Wings: Instruction in the lost art of good manners

Success in a career and in life, Juliet Mitchell believes, is a combination of technical skills, determination and social etiquette. Social etiquette, she believes, goes well beyond which fork to use at a meal, but integrates respect and consideration for others with the knowledge of social norms that leads to success in personal, professional and community life. Mitchell is owner of Eagles Wings, LLC, a career and personal development company teaching skills and respect for self and others to transform the social abilities of children, teens, adults and even inmates. Once a customer relation executive for Northwest Airlines, Mitchell assisted employees needing to learn social skills and workplace ethics to succeed in a competitive corporate environment. Flash forward 12 years, and Mitchell is on her own, based out of an office on St. Paul’s Selby Avenue, and stronger than ever.  Mitchell’s corporate career ended soon after 9/11 when the airline industry drastically cut its workforce. Continue Reading